USITT Establishes Fellowship for Young Non-Profit Leaders

January 29, 2021

The late Sherry Wagner-Henry. USITT’s leadership program is named in her memory.

The USITT Board of Directors has established the Sherry Wagner-Henry Leadership Development Initiative to advance the next generation of leadership in the arts. The program is named in honor of Sherry Wagner-Henry, longtime USITT member and former Board member who passed away unexpectedly in 2020.

The core element of the initiative is the Sherry Wagner-Henry Fellowship to support a young professional to serve as a non-voting member of the USITT Board. Development of new Board leaders was a passion of Wagner-Henry, who fervently believed that the next generation of non-profit leaders should be developed through an engagement with governance that allowed their voices to be heard. 

The Sherry Wagner-Henry Fellowship grows from the Board Mentorship program that Wagner-Henry established in 2013 during her tenure as USITT Treasurer.

“Sherry Wagner-Henry brought to USITT an enthusiasm, love, and awareness of arts administration,” said USITT President-Elect Carolyn Satter. “She was an integral part of creating educational sessions presented at USITT’s Annual Conference, coinciding with the criteria development for a "hands-on" program open to aspiring administrators. She loved being a mentor and making Board experience accessible to young professionals.”

Wagner-Henry’s husband, Brent “Mickey” Henry shared that while classroom teaching was “not her thing,” she enjoyed making connections for her students with industry professionals. “Sherry felt that this was much more valuable than a classroom lecture. It’s why she started the Board Mentorship program at USITT.”

“The symbiotic relationship of the program allowed the mentee to learn from the leadership but also allowed the leadership to gain the perspective of a generation who rarely had a seat at the table, thus allowing both parties to grow,” continued Henry. “The program peeled back a curtain and revealed the ‘mystery’ of how an organization is run.”

With feedback from former Board Mentorship program participants, the Sherry Wagner-Henry Fellowship has become a flexible, 12-to-18-month long program with particular emphasis on finding the future leaders of USITT and investing in their growth. This opportunity serves as a bridge to connect emerging professionals with current leaders in the theatre and entertainment industry, as well as an opportunity to learn new skills that will help to develop valuable expertise on their journey to non-profit leadership. 

In addition to supporting the cost of meeting attendance for fellowship recipients, the Sherry Wagner-Henry Leadership Development Initiative will grow to support leadership development across the Institute, allowing promising young leaders the opportunity to engage and grow in non-profit service.

The initiative is housed in the USITT Professional Development Fund, which supports continuing education opportunities for non-students. Gifts to the Sherry Wagner-Henry Leadership Development Initiative can be made here.