#PeopleOfPeace: Mama Sheri’s Lifelong Journey To Peace
Spring sunlight pours through the windows of the Dinwiddie Chapel, lighting up the nervous face of Sheri Jacobs Keasler. “Mama Sheri”, as she has been lovingly coined, is no stranger to a lively conversation, but as she preps for her interview in a pew just a few rows back from the very alter she once said her wedding vows – it’s obvious that something is different about this conversation. You see, Keasler will be graduating with the class of 2016, thus completing an arduous journey that began in the fall semester of 1978, on this very campus.
When Keasler first attended the University in 1978 it was still Peace College, a two-year, all-women’s school. She says the home-like feel and rich traditions are what swayed her to attend.
“I fell in love with Peace the moment I walked on the front campus.”
“When my parents and I came to visit and we took our tour, I fell in love with Peace the moment I walked on the front campus,” Keasler said, reminiscing. “I was so welcomed and so embraced, that I just knew that this is where I needed to be.”
Swept up in the family-like community of Peace, Keasler couldn’t wait to return for her sophomore year to re-immerse herself into the rich traditions of the institution. However, her father passed away rather unexpectedly and Keasler made the tough decision to leave school and enter the workforce in order to help her mother financially – a decision that Keasler (then Jacobs) says she never regretted making because it led to her meeting Bennett Keasler, her now husband.
“I went off to work and I met the man-of-my-life,” Keasler said, smiling. “It was truly love at first sight.”
When the couple planned its marriage, Keasler had only one place in mind that she wanted to exchange her vows – Peace. So, in June of 1986, the two were married in Peace’s Dinwiddie Chapel, a day Keasler holds close to her heart. The Keaslers raised four children through the 1980’s, and though life was happy and busy for Sheri, now a mother of three boys and one girl, she admits that passing by the University during family trips to Krispy Kreme really pained her heart.
It wasn’t until years later that Keasler’s husband, Bennett, suggested that she go back to school to finish her degree.
“This journey would not have been possible without the love and support of my husband Bennett,” Keasler said. “He has been with me every step of the way – he has told me, ‘you can do this.'”
When Keasler returned to Peace in 2003 and began taking part-time classes, she found herself in classrooms surrounded by mostly teenage students. But Keasler didn’t mind sticking out, because she was happy to be back and having fun with her classmates. As the years passed and Sheri slowly plugged away at her degree, Dawn Dillon ’86, Director of First-Year Experience, suggested she apply for a work-study position. Keasler says that it was her time as a work-study student – working closely with faculty, staff, and students – that made her realize WPU was exactly where she needed to be.
“It was that job, that position as a student-worker that made me convinced I didn’t ever want to leave Peace.”
In 2011, Keasler was hired full-time in Student Services where she works directly with students on an everyday basis. She works tirelessly to ensure a quality on-campus experience for every student she encounters – earning the title “Mama Sheri” from a once homesick student.
“This journey would not have been possible without the love and support of my husband Bennett.”
Now, decades after stepping foot on campus, Sheri will walk across that big stage on Main lawn, and will accept her long-awaited and well-earned diploma. She will shake hands with University administrators. And like every WPU graduate before her – she will stop and pose for her picture on stage, diploma in-hand, and she’ll savor the moment. On May 7, 2016 she will become that “Lady of Peace” she has always wanted to be.
Since 1978, Sheri Jacobs Keasler has worked to fill the place in her heart that she reserved for Peace so long ago. It’s her love and dedication for the University and the people who comprise it, that in turn has placed her into the heart of what has makes WPU special for so many people.
NOTE: Mama Sheri was voted “Miss Peace” by her 2016 classmates, along with Terrace Myles, who was voted “Mr. Peace”.