New center will serve to empower lives of impoverished persons globally through research, innovation

MACON – Directors of the Macon-based Phil J. and Alice S. Sheridan Foundation have committed $10 million to endow The Sheridan Center at Mercer University to support the work of Mercer On Mission throughout the globe. The Center will maintain a special focus on the University’s prosthetics program, which promises to become the largest supplier of high-quality prosthetics to people who could not otherwise afford them throughout the world. The gift was announced Thursday at a Mercer Board of Trustees dinner in Atlanta.

Since its establishment in 2007, Mercer On Mission every year deploys hundreds of students, faculty and staff to more than a dozen countries around the world where they carry out sustainable, impactful research and service programs that include mitigating pollution, providing clean water, improving health care, empowering women and initiating economic development. The longest-running of the Mercer On Mission programs is the Vietnam prosthetics initiative, which has fitted more than 16,000 Vietnamese with patented, highly durable and low-cost prosthetic legs that were designed and are manufactured by Mercer faculty, staff and students. Most of the patients fitted with the prosthetic legs have been victims of land mines left over from the Vietnam War.

“This transformational endowment gift – one of the largest in our history – recognizes that Mercer University’s potential for positively impacting the lives of underprivileged and oppressed people around the globe has never been greater,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “Mercer On Mission has defined what it means for Mercer to be faithful to its heritage as an institution where students are inspired and empowered to develop and deploy their God-given gifts and talents to change the world. This endowment will serve to empower the lives of impoverished persons globally through research and innovation. I am deeply grateful to the Sheridan Foundation directors for providing the funding to establish this Center.”

Since 2012, the Sheridan Foundation has provided financial support for the design, production and distribution of the prostheses created in Mercer engineering laboratories. The $10 million endowment will fuel greater advances and larger numbers of prostheses for patients in developing countries.

Specifically, the endowment will allow the Center to hire additional faculty with expertise in prosthetics design, manufacture and fitting and to expand administrative staff as needed. It will also fund components, supplies and travel, an increase in participation by Mercer students, and collaboration with other universities and organizations doing similar work around the world.

“The goal of this Center is to become the world leader in understanding the real-world problems of the poor and disadvantaged and in designing innovative, high-impact and sustainable solutions that will empower them to live whole and healthy lives,” said University Minister and Mercer On Mission Director Dr. Craig McMahan, who has worked on the Vietnam prosthetics initiative since its inception with Dr. Ha Van Vo, Distinguished University Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and other faculty in the School of Engineering.

“This gift to Mercer does not come from a bank account. It comes from the heart and soul of Phil and Alice Sheridan, from the prayers, works, joys and sorrows of their well-lived lives – two people who heard, who felt and who followed the voice of our constant, sustaining God,” said Chris R. Sheridan, chairman of the Sheridan Foundation Board of Directors and a Mercer trustee. “This partnership extends our reach beyond our experience and our lifetimes; it is one that multiplies the effect of our financial donation with infrastructure, reach, vision and results. President Underwood and Craig McMahan have hearts and souls like Phil and Alice, and they are perfect partners in our mutual commitment to changing the world.”

Phil J. and Alice S. Sheridan were longtime Macon residents and led lives of service, giving of their time, talents and financial resources to produce a lasting impact on the community. The Sheridans established the foundation to “help the poor, heal the sick and assist the lame to walk.”

“I am grateful to the Sheridan Foundation and especially to Chris Sheridan, who has been involved with the prosthetics program for more than a decade. The Foundation’s incredibly generous gift that will establish our Center will take our program to a whole new level so that we can change the lives of thousands of amputees in Vietnam and around the world,” said Dr. Vo, who as a teenager immigrated to the United States from Vietnam and whose lifelong goal has been to help alleviate the suffering that continues to result from the Vietnam War.

Kyle Sears
Kyle is the director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he coordinates hometown and university news releases and serves as editor of the News@Mercer e-newsletter and Reach magazine.​