a women hanging art on a wall

Sarah-Anne Winchester, a graduate art major and research assistant with SIU Carbondale’s University Museum, hangs up an artwork collected by Caresse Crosby as part of “Chère Caresse: Art in the Crosby Papers” exhibition. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

September 21, 2023

Professor James Franklin Sharp donates $1 million to SIU, honored with museum naming

by Jeff Wilson

With a $1 million gift, Professor James Franklin Sharp has chiseled his name into Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s legacy. Now, the university will honor his generosity by renaming the University Museum as Sharp Museum.

Today (Sept. 21), the SIU Board of Trustees voted for the museum to bear Sharp’s name and to rename the Southern Illinois Gallery as the Mrs. Rosanna Sharp Myers Southern Illinois Gallery, after Sharp’s sister.

“This gift will help ensure a state-of-the-art museum, propel the promotion of the work being done on campus, throughout the state and across the country as well as elevate the prestige of exhibits, artifacts and the research being conducted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale,” said the board resolution.

At 3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, the university will host a ceremony in front of the museum to unveil the name and honor Sharp, who will be in attendance along with friends and family. SIU Carbondale Chancellor Austin Lane will give remarks at 4 p.m.

“Professor Sharp’s incredible giving spirit inspires us all,” said John Pollitz, dean of Library Affairs, which oversees the museum. “This gift will make a profound impact on both educational and cultural opportunities for our students, faculty and the region.”

James-Franklin-Sharp-sm.jpgSharp attended SIU from 1954 to 1956, but the university didn’t offer a four-year degree in engineering at that time. Still, he said he always felt a strong connection to the university.

While an SIU student, he played seven intramural sports, including football, corkball, basketball, volleyball, softball, badminton and horseshoes. He was a member of the Theta Xi fraternity.

“I lived in Doyle Dorm with three roommates, whom I have stayed in touch with over all these years,” Sharp said. “Corkball was my favorite sport, and the Theta Xi Variety Show was a big deal in those days. At the time, I could have never imagined I’d even have $1 million, period.”

He transferred to the University of Illinois from SIU and completed his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering. He later earned a master’s and Ph.D. from Purdue University.

“I guess I would say I enjoyed my time at SIU more than the other colleges I attended,” Sharp said. “At SIU, the classes were small and taught by senior professors. I enjoyed watching SIU football and basketball games. They were always very crowded.”

Sharp taught at three universities: Rutgers University, New York University Stern Graduate School of Business and Pace University Lubin Graduate School of Business. He also held management positions at AT&T and founded Sharp Seminars in New York, which became a leading provider of training for Wall Street investment analysts and investment portfolio managers.

He has also written 36 books and had many articles published. He has achieved the following professional designations: CFA, CIPM, CMA, CFM and Mensa.

A Chester High School graduate, Sharp has made supporting education a lifelong endeavor. He has made multiple donations to Chester schools, adding up to more than $600,000.

“After making gifts to other institutions, I realized the kind of impact I was able to make. During one of my trips back to SIU, I visited the museum and thought it could use some funding,” Sharp said. “So, I thought why not go big and make it $1 million.”