Sherilyn: A Christmas film that’s a favorite of ours ( It’s A Wonderful Life) gives George Bailey a chance to look back and see the impact his life made on the lives of others and how different things might have been. Sometimes I think about the course of my own life and how grateful I am to have a wonderful husband, two beautiful children, and a career I love. When I graduated from Jacksonville High, I had no idea where life would take me or how many people would help me along the way. I was just another young girl with big dreams.
Patrick: I may not have been part of Sherilyn’s dreams but as soon as I got to know her, she was part of mine. We both went to Tyler Junior College right after high school in the fall of 1993. I was a Robert E Lee grad who didn’t know what I wanted to do. My mom, Martha Critchfield, is a stockbroker who handled the accounts of Dorothy Fay & Jack White. Like so many Tyler luminaries, the White’s were generous supporters and ardent fans of TJC. They thought TJC was a great place to get started and that was enough for me.
Sherilyn: I knew TJC was affordable, close to home and offered a quality education, so with the scholarships I had been awarded, I could begin college without creating a hardship for my family or taking out student loans. (Plenty of those would come with medical school!) TJC was also a place I could get involved in student life and student leadership.
Patrick: We both were elected to the student senate and right away, I knew Sherilyn was the person I wanted to marry. She seemed so capable, smart, witty, mature, and beautiful to me then, just like she does now! The first time I asked her to marry me was just three months after we met when I took her to the Cattle Baron’s Ball. She didn’t take me seriously at first, but I knew she was going to marry me some day when we had our lives in order.
Sherilyn: At TJC, I was awarded the Robert M. Rogers Presidential Scholarship and their belief in me meant so much! Besides being active in the Student Senate and getting better acquainted with Patrick, I was a student worker in the health clinic with Zelda Boucher. Working there helped confirm my desire to be a physician. Being chosen for the Watson W. Wise Incentive Award at TJC was a tremendous help toward my goal of medical school and so many great people opened doors for me. I cared for Patrick a lot but I had to keep my studies on track, so I just brushed off Patrick’s first marriage proposal by teasing him that he must have had some wine at that fundraiser.
Patrick: I was a good student in college but being a study partner with Sherilyn made me much better! She was set on her goals and was named to the USA Today All American Academic Team and then graduated summa cum laude from TJC. While at Texas A&M, she made even higher grades as a straight A student in biomedical science. At A&M’s medical school, she was also tops in her classes and was selected to join the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society.
Sherilyn: I saw that Patrick was a “keeper” early on. At age 19, he was invited on the Tyler Board of the American Heart Association, and discovered his passion for nonprofit fundraising. We both had great teachers and role models at TJC who encouraged us to pursue our dreams. Patrick transferred to UT Tyler where he was able to tailor much of his coursework toward his goal of working with nonprofits. He interned in the development office at UT Health Center at Tyler where he had wonderful mentors, including John Anderson, the Director of Development, Peggy Berry and Laurie Rossman. He has had the opportunity to get to know some other Tyler greats that were a huge influence on him. Patrick got to know and work with local legends like Vivian Haimann and Emma Wise, (Emma was his “date” for local events many times while I was at Texas A&M!) as well as Norman Shtofman, Dub Riter, Jim Vaughn, Harold Beaird, Bill Hartley and Jim Perkins. This year has been especially meaningful to Patrick from a professional standpoint as he merged his consulting business with Marilyn Abegg & Associates. Marilyn Abegg Glass is a lovely person, and of course a longtime and well respected non-profit consultant. I could not be prouder of both of them, their new team and the work they do for the community!
Patrick: It took a while, but Sherilyn and I married in 1997 and in the coming year we will celebrate fifteen years of marriage! Neither of us will ever forget where we came from and how our lives were shaped by this community. We both love East Texas with its wonderful people, natural beauty, faith based culture and caring values. There isn’t anywhere else we’d want to raise our own children. It’s a wonderful life, right here in East Texas!
- Dr. Sherilyn Willis is an ob-gyn and physician partner at Four Seasons Women’s Health in Tyler. Patrick D. Willis is president of Abegg Willis & Associates, a non-profit management consulting firm. Patrick serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the R. Don Cowan Fine & Performing Arts Center and on its Endowment Committee. Sherilyn serves the community as the volunteer Medical Director of the Sexual Assault Team at East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System. In celebration of a wedding anniversary a few years ago, Patrick established the Sherilyn A. Willis, MD Medical Scholarship at the East Texas Communities Foundation to honor his beloved wife. They are the proud parents of Vivian, 6, who is a first grader at the Brook Hill School and Jackson, 3, who attends Oak Hill Montessori School. The Willis family are active members of Christ Episcopal Church.