Our community has suffered a terrible loss with the deaths of former UMass Boston Chancellor Sherry Penney and her beloved husband, Jim Livingston. They are dead from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in their winter home in Sarasota, Florida. Their extended family of friends, colleagues and students – all of whose lives were touched by this dynamic and loving couple – are in shock.
Sherry had been interim president of the University of Massachusetts, Chancellor of UMass Boston and a provost at Yale University, but she especially left her mark as the creator and driver of the Emerging Leaders Program in the Center for Collaborative Leadership at UMass Boston. Over the last 18 years, hundreds of young professionals have been tapped to develop their leadership skills and take their place among the future shapers of our community. They are bright, diverse and the faces of the future. Sherry’s enthusiasm and hard work built a vast network of the region’s corporate, government and non-profit sectors. It was very hard to say No to Sherry Penney. Her many honors and awards are just a small suggestion of the significance of her many accomplishments.
Sherry’s husband, Jim Livingston, was a research physicist. He retired, then taught for 20 years in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, then retired again, spending much time writing articles for professional and popular science publications. He also had a strong interest in American history, and, with Sherry, co-authored a biography of the 19th century feminist and abolitionist Martha Coffin Wright entitled, “A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women’s Rights.” A man of quiet dignity and gentle humor, he was an avid tennis player. He was a full participant in Sherry’s many causes and always beside her in her many public commitments.
Sherry and Jim were a wonderful couple, always a joy to be with. Each left an imprint on the world around them, and always for the better. They lived full lives, and the tragedy of their deaths cannot be overestimated.
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