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Sherman's Commitment to Chapel House Lives On

September 1, 2009

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From left, Hillel staffer David Hausler, UAlbany 2008 alumna Olivia Fagan, UAlbany senior Diana Landy, and Father Eric de la Pena gather at the bridge built in memory of Susan Sherman.

From left, Hillel staff member David Hausler;  UAlbany 2008 alumna Olivia Fagan, who works for Catholic Charities; current UAlbany senior Diana Landy, a psychology major from Binghamton; and Catholic Campus Minister and Newman Association adviser Father Eric de la Pena gather at the bridge in the Susan Sherman garden. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

On Commencement weekend, happy University at Albany graduates posed in their caps and gowns for photos on a decorative wooden bridge in front of Chapel House.

The peaceful garden spot bursts with color in the spring, first the daffodils, and then the azaleas. That garden was dedicated over the summer to the memory of Susan Roth Sherman, a nationally known gerontologist and distinguished service professor of Social Welfare who taught at UAlbany for more than 25 years.

While Sherman won many awards, including the Collins Fellow, the garden honors her in a completely different way: as someone who was a strong supporter of both the Jewish and the interfaith programming of Chapel House.

A member of the board of directors of the Albany Collegiate Interfaith Center (Chapel House) since 1996, Sherman died of cancer in 2004.

"I think she would be pleased by the garden," said Professor of Mathematics Malcolm J. Sherman, her husband of 40 years. "It reminds people of her. It also connects Susie with something that was very important to her."

At a ceremony dedicating the garden, Malcolm said, "Susie and I had met at the Berkeley Hillel foundation in 1960. For both of us Hillel was a force for Jewish continuity as well as a center for social life and intellectual stimulation. Chapel House serves not just as a facility where each faith holds its own services, but as a model for interfaith cooperation and understanding." 

Susan Sherman was also the founding adviser of the Hillel-affiliated student group RUACH a Hebrew word meaning spirit and an acronym for Reform Judaism at Albany Chavurah.

Chapel House holds separate services for Jewish, Catholic, and interdenominational Protestant students. It is also a resource to find off-campus services for many other religious traditions.

The garden and a fresh coat of stain on the exterior walls have given Chapel House a facelift in recent years.

Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Nomi Manon and Hillel staffer David Hausler with the commemorative plaque bearing Susan Sherman's name.

From left, Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Nomi Manon and Hillel staff member David Hausler with the commemorative plaque bearing Susan Sherman's name. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Inside the building, with help from a Student Success Diversity Grant, Executive Director Donna Crisafulli was able to purchase books on Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism for the library. In that same space, students can sink into the cushions of the new sofas donated by Old Brick Furniture Co.

They can make group dinners or apple pies for missions in one of the two kitchens. One of the kitchens is kosher. Those rooms see heavy usage. The 22-year-old industrial refrigerator in the kosher kitchen whirs like an air conditioner, and the stoves need updating. 

Crisafulli has a wish list for repairs that includes replacing the deteriorating cement floors, most visible in the dining area. Crisafulli said Chapel House is halfway to its $150,000 goal in the Building Bridges of Faith Campaign for capital improvements.

Clergy at Chapel House include: Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Nomi Manon; Catholic Campus ministers and Newman Association advisers Father Paul D. Butler and Father Eric de la Pena, who share duties; and Protestant Campus Minister Sandy Damhof, adviser for Cornerstone Campus Ministry.

Chapel House is privately owned by the Capital Area Council of Churches, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, and the United Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, and is for use by students, faculty, alumni, and friends of the University.

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UAlbany Faculty

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