Band of brothers creates a memorial scholarship for inspirational friend
Aug. 24, 2021 - Wendy Martin
It’s been more than 11 years since Will Sheffey (B.S. ‘90/B) succumbed to brain cancer at the age of 42, but his Kappa Sigma brother Craig Corrieri still breaks up, talking about his lifelong friend. Corrieri isn’t alone. Sheffey’s VCU fraternity brothers, inspired by his strength of character, recently reinvigorated the endowed scholarship they created in Sheffey’s name.
“Will was an incredible guy. That was obvious on Day One,” Corrieri recalls. Corrieri and Sheffey lived together while attending the VCU School of Business and afterward. As a student, Sheffey was open about the genetic disorder that caused the muscles in his arms and legs to atrophy and gave his chest a sunken appearance.
“Will overcame,” Corrieri remembers. “His whole life he adapted to the best of his ability. He never said, ‘Guys, I can’t do this because I have this condition.’ We played golf together. Will rock climbed. He didn’t drive a ball as far or run as fast, but he always found a place to be in the center of the mix where he could contribute and add value.”
Decades after graduation, Sheffey, then married with two young daughters, told his former roommate that he’d been diagnosed with brain cancer.
“I was crushed,” Corrieri recalls. “But he said, ‘I’ve dealt with challenges my whole life. I’ll overcome this.’ That’s the kind of guy he was. He was amazing.”
Sadly, even Sheffey’s indefatigable spirit was no match for cancer. After battling for more than two years, Sheffey died on May 2, 2010.
A way to forever honor their brother
Immediately, Sheffey’s Kappa Sigma brothers brainstormed how to honor his legacy. “He had such an impact on all of us,” says Brad Welles (B.S. ‘87/B). “In college, he was such a role model when it came to dealing with tough stuff and, throughout his battle with cancer, it was the same. We all wanted to honor him. In 2010, a group needed only $10,000 to create an endowed scholarship, so we raised that quickly.”
“Let’s make it real” – setting a goal of $100, 000
For years, Sheffey’s closest friends made annual contributions in his memory but additional contributions stalled. “Kappa Sigma lost its VCU charter in 2009, so there was a lot of apathy,” Corrieri says. “We no longer had that connection drawing us back to the school. Then, five years ago, [scholarship co-founder] Brad [Welles] approached me and said, ‘We’ve screwed around with this scholarship long enough. Let’s make it real.’”
In 2015 Welles had become a trustee for the VCU Foundation and gained perspective about the meaningful impact a deeply endowed scholarship could make.
“He felt we weren’t doing justice to Will’s memory, and I agreed,” Corrieri recalls. “I told him, ‘Give me a number.’ He said, ‘$100,000.’ We were at $15,000 at the time. So, I told him, ‘Okay, give me four or five years and we’ll get you there.’”
Golf tournament is transformed into a fundraiser
Corrieri immediately connected with Kappa Sigma brother Kevin Taylor (B.F.A. ‘88/B), convincing him in 2019 to turn Kaler’s casual Kappa Sigma golf tournament into a true fundraiser. Over the next three years, the event grew, raising nearly $30,000. In 2017, when news of the first scholarship recipient, Charlotte Duke, was shared with alumni, it added additional momentum to the effort. Today the fund exceeds $125,000.
“We’re not done by any means,” Welles declares. “I’d like this to be one of the Top 10 endowed scholarship funds in the business school.”
“Part of Greek life is a commitment to each other and to bettering our community,” says Welles. “The four pillars of Kappa Sigma are: fellowship, leadership, scholarship and service. This scholarship celebrates all of them.”
Fraternity brothers rally around scholarship recipient
Katherine Pham (B.S. ‘21/B) is the most recent recipient of the Sheffey scholarship, a merit award. Pham immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam when she was in fourth grade.
“The scholarship had a very big impact on me,” she says. “This fall, I will attend Parsons to complete a one-year, online fashion management degree. I’m able to do that because of the scholarships that kept my loans to a minimum.”
“After I graduated, one of the Kappa Sigma brothers, Kenny Day (B.S. ‘93/B), followed me on LinkedIn ,and posted about me winning the scholarship. After that, I had so many offers from Kappa Sigma brothers to connect and network. Some had the same immigrant story as me and wanted to help. It was such a nice gesture. I never expected that.”
“We want our scholarship recipients and new Kappa Sigma members to understand, not only the love and passion we have for Will, but what college is,” says Corrieri. “The relationships these students build in these four years will dictate the next forty years of their lives.”