SHERIDAN — Longtime Sheridan resident Dr. Sy Thickman kicked off Sheridan College’s Faculty Lecture series Thursday by recounting the history and growth of several of the community’s organizations.
Dr. Rachel Bergman, Sheridan College’s Dean of Performing and Visual Arts and a member of the Faculty Lecture Series Committee, said the purpose of the lecture series is to connect Sheridan College’s faculty with the community and allow the community to benefit from the expertise of Sheridan College’s staff. Future lectures will focus on a variety of topics based on the interests of different faculty members.
Though Thickman is not a part of Sheridan College’s staff, the Thickman Lecture Endowment is supporting the series and Bergman said Thickman’s perspective on the area would provide an introduction into the relationship between Sheridan College and the community.
Thickman has lived and worked as a doctor in Sheridan since 1953. He operated a private practice from 1953 to 1990 and worked at the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Medical Center from 1990 to 2005.
Sheridan County Fulmer Library
Sheridan’s first nonprofit organization, Thickman said, was its community library.
Henry Coffeen hauled more than 4,000 books with him on his trip to Sheridan and decided to gift his collection to the city. The books were housed in a reading room and became the community’s first de facto library. Thickman said that reading room expanded into a full-fledged library thanks to a $12,500 grant from steel baron Andrew Carnegie, who believed libraries offered an equal opportunity route to self-improvement and success and donated to dozens of libraries throughout the United States and Canada. With that donation, the city built its first library on the corner of Brooks and Loucks Streets in 1915.
The library migrated to its current location with a gift from Margaret Fulmer. Thickman, who was Fulmer’s physician, said she developed meningitis late in her life and though she managed to survive the disease, it left her deaf. Thickman said he and one of the library employees took turns visiting Fulmer to try to ease the isolation she felt as a result. When she died in 1971, Thickman said Fulmer gifted the city $300,000, which the community matched, to build the current Fulmer Library.
Thickman said the community worked for a long time to build a YMCA. In 1915, Wyoming was the only state that did not contain a YMCA. That didn’t change until 1964, when Don Roberts and Homer Scott led a group of Sheridan residents, which included Thickman, dedicated to bringing a YMCA to Sheridan.
The community raised more than $400,000 for the construction, which the Whitney Board matched to build the YMCA.
Sheridan Memorial Hospital
The state built the first hospital in Sheridan in 1904 but Thickman said it did not maintain that facility well. The community decided to build its own hospital on Saberton Avenue, on the other side of the railroad tracks. It remained there until 1954, when the community decided the hospital needed to find a better location. Because of the old hospitals proximity to the railroad tracks Thickman, who worked in the old building briefly, said doctors would sometimes be blocked from getting back to the hospital by a passing train.
In June of 1954, the hospital moved to its current location. The new building was initially managed by a relatively small staff, especially by today’s standards, but Thickman said it has grown into a model community hospital.
Thickman said the college’s first president, John Goodman, started offering classes in 1948 before the college had a central location. Classes met in spare offices and classrooms across the city until it could find a campus.
When the hospital relocated in 1954, the college moved into its old location. The move was aided by donations from Edward A. Whitney and Frederic Thorne-Rider who each donated $300,000 to the college.
But Thickman said an enduring reason for the college’s success was, and continues to be, its close relationship with the Sheridan community. When the city asked residents to vote on whether it should extend a bond to the college, Thickman said more than 90 percent of residents voted in favor of the bond.
Time has only strengthened that relationship and Thickman said both the college and Sheridan have grown tremendously as a result.