Bob Sherman: Inspiration Awards designed to reward unbridled creativity

Jaime Blanton

Neither Bob nor Bette Sherman attended the University of North Texas, but their ties here run deep.

Bob Sherman says sometimes he’s overwhelmed by the positive memories he has of UNT from his childhood.

Sherman’s father, Robert, spent more than 30 years as a UNT biology professor and administrator.

“I think that growing up on a college campus offers you a unique perspective,” he says. “It opens your mind to the kind of activities that go on here—the research, the discourse, the discovery. College campuses are unique environments because they are our nation’s idea incubators. They are a place where trial and error, failure and success are often viewed in a larger, more societal content.”

Bob Sherman says his view about the role of a university likely bolstered his interest in supporting a unique competition designed to showcase student creativity.

The Shermans gave $350,000 to establish the Sherman/Barsanti Inspiration Awards, which award cash prizes to students whose work demonstrates originality, innovative thinking, unique creative instincts and the potential to benefit society. Part of UNT’s Innovation Greenhouse, any original project, invention, composition or artwork is eligible to win the award.

“Students need to be encouraged to think outside the box,” Bob Sherman says. “Great ideas emerge when we give them freedom to explore and create.”

The awards are named to honor the Shermans and Bette Sherman’s father, the late Maj. Gen. Olinto Mark Barsanti, whose historic military artifacts are part of the UNT Libraries archive.

“UNT is special to Bette because staff members here helped her review and archive her father’s papers and life’s work,” Bob Sherman says. “Her father’s remarkable career illustrates he was a forward-thinking man, a military innovator.

“This award is designed to honor the pioneers of every discipline who are willing to take the kind of risks that lead to discovery and transformation.”


Above, Bette and Bob Sherman on the Emerald Eagle Honors green carpet in April 2013.