Sunday, July 28, 2002

Popular Miami professor, a 'Renaissance lady,' killed

By Michael D. Clark,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON - A Miami University professor, community activist and former Citizen of the Year for this Butler County city was gunned down Saturday afternoon.

        Hamilton Police said Sherry Lee Corbett, 55, of 643 Dayton St., was shot multiple times about 1:55 p.m. at North 10th Street and Campbell Avenue.

        A female suspect, who was not identified, was being questioned by investigators about the shooting Saturday evening.

        Police said Ms. Corbett, a nationally recognized leader in housing rehabilitation and an expert in historic housing, was taken to Fort Hamilton Hospital, then flown by AirCare helicopter to University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

        The mostly middle-income neighborhood is part of the city's historic preservation area.

        “We're all walking zombies in the neighborhood,” said Dr. Thomas Nye, a former mayor who lives and works across the street from Ms. Corbett's home, in the wake of the shooting. “We are completely stunned.

        “She would renovate the most run-down properties, places others wouldn't consider. She was a true Renaissance lady,” Dr. Nye said.

        In addition to her work as a housing developer in Hamilton, she owned dozens of apartments and renovated a number of historic homes.

        “She worked very hard to promote a sense of community in the neighborhood. She helped redevelop the Dayton Lane historic society,” said tenant Paul Salyers, 45, of Hamilton.

        “She would host picnics, have gatherings in the park. She is one of the most giving persons I have ever met.”

        Ms. Corbett was not married and had no children.

        “Her children were her homes,” Mr. Salyers said. “That was absolutely the No. 1 priority and pride in her life.”

        Ms. Corbett joined Miami University in 1974 as an associate professor who taught sociology, gerontology and anthropology at the College of Arts and Sciences.

        She frequently lectured in Oxford and throughout Greater Cincinnati on historic preservation.

        Claire Wagner, a Miami University spokeswoman, said news of the popular professor's death spread quickly throughout the college community, leaving it in shock.

        “It's a huge loss for the campus. She was also very important to the city of Hamilton,” Ms. Wagner said.

        “This is most painful and most horrible,” said Dr. Lisa Groger, an associate professor of sociology, gerontology and anthropology. She said she worked closely with Ms. Corbett.

        “We are all sitting here crying,” she said of the family and friends who quickly gathered after news of the violent death.

        Ms. Corbett's preservation work on more than 20 historic Hamilton homes and her volunteer work in helping turn around some the city's older neighborhoods earned her the city's Citizen of the Year award in 1995.

        In 1998 she was quoted in an Enquirer story as saying, “I couldn't afford a house in Oxford, so I looked around in Hamilton and fell in love with Dayton Street. I wanted a challenge.”

        Ms. Corbett earned a bachelor's degree from Oral Roberts in 1969, a master's degree in arts from Tulsa University in 1971 and a doctorate from Oklahoma State in 1974. She was a fellow at Miami's Scripps Gerontology Center, where she specialized in studies of aging prison populations.

        She represented Ohio on the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has served as president of the Dayton Lane Historic Area.

        “She was a hands-on kind of person,” said Chuck Furmon, Butler County commissioner and former Hamilton mayor. “She didn't just step back and talk about things. She'd roll up her sleeves and get involved.”


        Enquirer reporters Jim Hannah, Steve Eder and Erica Solvig contributed.



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