Upper Iowa University alumni Paul ’60 and Sharroll (Fay) Richards have not only shared a lifetime of love and friendship with each other, but also with their alma mater. Growing up in Fayette during the ’40s and ’50s, the childhood sweethearts were among those often asked to participate in children’s plays at UIU. Directed by students of the University’s teacher education program, the performances took place on the stage of Colgrove-Walker Hall.
“I played Gretel and Paul was a woodcutter in our first play together,” Sharroll reminisced. “I guess you could say from that point on, UIU and its Fayette Campus have always been a big part of our lives.”
Now married for 60 years, Paul and Sharroll explained that when they graduated from Fayette High School it was expected the local students would attend UIU. As members of the high school’s Class of ’56, the Richards joined 12 of their 29 classmates in enrolling at Upper Iowa. In addition to achieving a higher education, many of the area’s top athletes also remained close to home to play at UIU. A 1998 Peacock Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Paul remains especially grateful to have had the opportunity to play football for some of the area’s legendary coaches.
“If you were from Fayette, you went to Upper Iowa to achieve an education,” Paul said. “And if you were an athlete, you had the opportunity to play for some outstanding coaches. My high school football coach, George Richards, and UIU coaches Doc Dorman and Eb Eischeid each made an enormous impact on my life. George was a very good high school coach. Everyone listened to Doc, and Eb was a good man. I take great pride in the fact that I played for each of those coaches.”
Paul would go onto earn a bachelor’s degree in physical education, social science and economics from UIU, before receiving a master’s degree from Winona State University in 1970. During his UIU Hall of Fame career, Paul was a four-year letter winner and senior co-captain in football. Paul was also a member of the Peacocks’ 1956-57 Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship basketball team. Upon graduation from UIU, he entered into a 38-year teaching, coaching and officiating career in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Sharroll attended UIU for one year before taking nursing training at St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids and beginning her career as a Licensed Practical Nurse. She later achieved an education degree at Winona State University and a master’s degree in early childhood education at the University of Minnesota, whereupon she embarked on a 27-year career as a kindergarten teacher.
The Richards have three children and nine grandchildren. Nan and her husband, Noah Silberschmidt, reside in London, England; Ross and his wife, Tam, reside in Phoenix, Arizona; and Matthew and his wife, Sharla, reside in Nyssa, Oregon.
“Our children may have initially questioned our decision to return to Fayette in 2006, but they realize now we made the right decision,” Paul said. “Frankly, UIU was, and still is, a great place to receive an education. The beautiful campus and small community allow for all students to get easily assimilated to college life. If I was to go back to school now, I would love taking the two classes per session. That is definitely a big drawing card for Upper Iowa.”
“Today’s students also have so many opportunities to participate in activities outside of the classroom,” Sharroll continued. “The faculty, staff and coaches are very good people and do so much to help the students here. I think families realize it is just a terrific place to receive an education.”
Since their return to Fayette, Paul and Sharroll have remained active at UIU. In addition to attending countless Peacock athletic and other UIU community events, Paul serves on the UIU Athletic Hall of Fame Committee and Sharroll on the UIU Alumni Awards Committee. The couple also recently endowed the J. Paul and Sharroll Richards Scholarships, which are awarded each year to student-athletes from Iowa, Minnesota or Wisconsin who are pursuing teacher licensure at the elementary or secondary level. Preference is given to students with an interest in becoming a certified coach.
In celebration of those who have and continue to ignite Peacock pride, the Richards were named the 2018 UIU Homecoming parade grand marshals.
“Since the time we were both little kids growing up in Fayette, we watched the UIU Homecoming parades and attended its football games, and now, voilà, in the twilight of our life we feel greatly honored for this opportunity,” Sharroll said prior to the event. “Paul and I are so happy to be a part of this extended family.”
“The reason we returned to Fayette was to continue our relationship with UIU,” Paul closed. “We owe so much to this university. We love reconnecting with friends and running into other people who have impacted our lives. It’s just an amazing place filled with amazing people. Go Peacocks!”