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Time was right to create a fellowship memorializing Shera Barton

Craig Barton and Patsy Barton create fund in vocal music

Shera Barton was 19 when she found out she had breast cancer and died five years later. Her brother and mother, Craig Barton and Patsy Barton, have created a vocal fellowship in her memory.
Shera Barton was 19 when she found out she had breast cancer and died five years later. Her brother and mother, Craig Barton and Patsy Barton, have created a vocal fellowship in her memory.

Shera Barton’s memory lives brightly in the minds and hearts of her brother and mother, Craig Barton and Patsy Barton. They share memories and reflect on her talents and characteristics. What they hadn't talked about, until recently, was their individual thoughts and plans on how – with the help of Shera’s life story – to encourage Wichita State vocal students to pursue their dreams. They wanted to create a vocal music fellowship in her memory.

“I had been thinking about this for a long time,” said Craig ’83, managing general partner for Olympia Partners LLC, “and I mentioned it to my mom. She was thinking the same thing. The timing was right.”

The Bartons plan to give a total of $150,000 to endow the Shera Barton Memorial Vocal Fellowship, celebrating her life.

“Shera was very shy and quiet, but when she was on stage, she discovered something she didn’t know she had,” said Craig. “She had a tremendous voice.”

He said that she loved to sing and performed in musical productions at Southeast High School in Wichita. Craig added that it was natural that she sang at his wedding.

Shera had a five-year battle with breast cancer, which developed when she was 19 years old. She died in 1990 at the age of 24.

Craig and his mother were of like mind, too, when it came to the preferences for the recipient of the fellowship. They preferred that it be awarded to a female vocalist with a passion and ability to do something with her musical talent — someone who is going to make music a profession.

“We want someone who will try many avenues to reach her goal,” said Craig

This is the first fellowship directed for female voices according to Rodney Miller, dean of the College of Fine Arts.

“It can be used as a recruitment tool,” he said, “and it is a nice attraction for female graduates who would also have the benefit of working with faculty members Sam Ramey and Alan Held, two major voices in the opera world.”

Miller said that he and Craig had talked about the guidelines for the fund over an extended period of time. They both are looking for students who dedicate themselves and follow through to get to the next level of vocal performance.

The $4,000 fellowship will be given annually to one full-time graduate student and will be renewed in the second year of the student’s graduate studies. The student will be enrolled in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Music in the Vocal Department.

Craig said the illness prevented Shera from living her life and following her dream to pursue a singing career.

“It’s important to Craig to feel like this gift in Shera’s memory would truly help facilitate that dream for someone else, said Miller.”

The first recipient is Carolyn Ramsuer. She is a new graduate student and has the lead role in the WSU fall opera.

“It is difficult to believe that Shera would soon be celebrating her 48th birthday,” said Craig. “I do not know where she would be, but I am certain that some expression of her musical talent would not be far away.”

Craig is grateful that he and his mother had the same idea and have the ability to create this fund to help a young woman pursue her vocal dream. He offers a bit of life advice for all WSU students.

“If and where you can, follow your passion. Even when health is not an issue, life is short. Do not look back upon your past and ask ‘what if?’.”


circle arrow If you would like to help make dreams come true for other passionate students at Wichita State, please contact Joseph Hunter, WSU Foundation vice president for development, at 316-978-3808 or