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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Advancing UD for 25 Years

Cheryl Sims has worked at the University of Dayton for 25 years, and for the past 22 years she has worked doing research for University Advancement. During this time, she’s received innumerable research requests, but one stands out more than the others.

Early in her UD research career, then vice president of University Advancement, Fran Evans, asked Sims to find a graduate who the University could honor by naming a building after them. Sims went to work combing through UD’s history, and that was when she first read about Jessie Hathcock ’30. Hathcock was the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Dayton, and she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities in 1978. After her graduation, Hathcock became a Dayton public school teacher and an incredible leader and advocate in the Dayton community until her death in 1986.

“Her story was so inspiring that I ran up to Fran and said, ‘This is the person UD should name a building after. There should be all kinds of buildings named after her,’” said Sims.

Evans subsequently had to inform Sims that the board of trustees decided to name the building Marianist Hall. Naming the new building after the Marianists was certainly understandable, but Sims was disappointed Hathcock wasn’t going to receive this honor.

Shortly after this happened, Kathy Harmon, former assistant vice president of enrollment management and dean of admission and financial aid, invited Sims to attend the annual scholarship dinner. Harmon had hired her and the two became, and remain, close friends.

“My mother had recently passed, so I was grieving and thinking about things, but I was also listening to the presenters,” said Sims. “That’s when I realized I could set up a scholarship to honor Mrs. Hathcock.”

And that’s exactly what she did, establishing the Jessie V. Scott Hathcock Memorial Scholarship in 2004 to support students who represent the qualities of leadership and service illustrated by Hathcock's life.

“It’s not that I had a lot of money to put toward it. My mother had left me a little bit, but I work here, so you know I’m not rolling in the dough,” Sims said with a laugh. “But I thought, hey, I can do this. And then everyone will be so inspired by the story of Mrs. Hathcock that they will also give.”

She is quick to point out that setting up the scholarship isn’t about her. In addition to the inspiration of Hathcock, Sims was guided by the words of “If I Can help Somebody,” a song she recalls from church in her youth.

Helping another didn’t take long, either. At the scholarship dinner, Sims met a student named Clementine Bihiga ’09. Bihiga would go on to become the first recipient of the Hathcock scholarship. Then, in 2020, Bihiga was awarded the Joe Belle Memorial Young Alumni Award. The award recognizes graduates for volunteer service to students and early career achievement, so Sims is seeing the scholarship help people who are making a real difference.

And, from her first days at UD, it’s always been the community of caring people who made campus feel like home for Sims.

“I didn’t know anything about the University of Dayton or the Marianists when I came here. So, when I had the opportunity, I asked a lot of questions of people.” Some of those people included Rev. James L. Heft, S.M., Rev. Gene Contadino and Bro. Raymond L. Fitz, S.M. ’64.

“They were just so understanding, patient, kind and welcoming,” said Sims. “I love it here and there’s just a different feel on this campus. There are so many opportunities to learn and to grow and stretch here. If you think of something here, you can do it.”

There have been a lot of bright days for Sims on campus, and one more came January 22, 2021. It was her 25th anniversary at UD, and that is the day she found out that there was going to be a building named for Hathcock after all. The new computer science building is officially named Jessie S. Hathcock Hall, and is being dedicated Oct. 22, 2021.

“It was exciting and fulfilling, and my first thought was, ‘Well, my work here is done.’”

Learn more and view the building.

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