Longtime administrative leader received the award for his exceptional service to Tufts University
Gerard “Jerry” Sheehan, a longtime administrative leader at The Fletcher School, was awarded the Hosea Ballou Medal by Tufts University on May 11 in recognition of his extraordinary dedication and impact over nearly four decades.
President Anthony Monaco made the surprise announcement at a dinner in Alumnae Lounge, where friends and colleagues had gathered in advance of Sheehan’s retirement to celebrate his contributions to Fletcher. Sheehan joined the school in 1985 as associate dean, a role he held for 14 years before serving as executive associate dean for an additional 21 years. After retiring from his full-time position in 2020, he continued as a special advisor to Fletcher School Dean Rachel Kyte, F02, and is stepping down at the end of May.
In his tenure as a trusted advisor to five Fletcher deans and a beloved fixture at the school, Sheehan has made an enormous difference, Kyte said. “Jerry’s impact on Fletcher has been incalculable,” she said. “Much of what the Fletcher community treasures about the place is in large part due to his impact and influence.”
The Hosea Ballou Medal, named for the university’s first president, is a rare honor, given only to members of the Tufts community “who have rendered exceptional service for the institution.” Before last week’s announcement, it had been awarded only 21 times since the trustees established it in 1939. Past recipients include former Tufts President Jean Mayer, H93, and former athletics director Bill Gehling.
“Much of what the Fletcher community treasures about the place is in large part due to his impact and influence.”
“Throughout the course of nearly four decades at Tufts, Jerry has served as an essential bridge between Fletcher and other Tufts schools, centers, and departments,” Monaco said. “He has built quite the reputation, as he is perhaps the only person in recent Fletcher history who can go by one name alone. As someone who has dedicated most of his life in service of others, and especially to Fletcher for several decades, I believe that Jerry is particularly deserving of this award.”
Sheehan said: “I am profoundly moved by this completely unexpected honor. And so very grateful to my many Tufts and Fletcher faculty and administrative colleagues who enabled me to have such a deeply and personally rewarding career at this great university.”
Sheehan earned an undergraduate degree in history from the College of the Holy Cross and a master’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University. As a Peace Corps volunteer and staff member, he lived and worked in the Central African Republic for more than two years before returning to Georgetown, where he served for two years as special assistant to the dean and then became deputy director for graduate programs at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.
Over the course of his career, he has served on several national advisory committees, including those for the National Security Education Program of the Department of Defense, the Program in Public Policy and International Affairs of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the Institute for International Public Policy. He has also served on screening and selection panels for the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program, now known as the Pickering Fellowship, and the U.S. government’s Muskie Professional Fellowship Program. In addition, he has held leadership positions in the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs.
At Fletcher, “he has provided not only guidance and insight, informed by an encyclopedic understanding of the university and its nuances, but immeasurable generosity of time and an inviting ear when I have needed it,” Kyte said.
“Because of Jerry’s hard work and tireless efforts on behalf of the school, and countless hours advising faculty, fellow administrators, and students, thousands of our students have successfully launched, propelled, or transformed their own careers here and have now taken on a myriad of leadership roles across the planet, working on behalf of a more just and peaceful world,” she said. Those Fletcher graduates were, she added, “no doubt influenced also by his modeling of patient listening, thoughtful inquiry, and tact and diplomacy.”