Community Voice

Sherry Williams, ’09 MPA, puts a public face to Swedish Hospital

Written by Tina Potterf
Photography by Mike Kane
July 6, 2011

A glance at Sherry Williams’ résumé reveals a rich and eclectic professional profile.

It starts in the banking industry, when Williams was recruited from her hometown of Boston to join a management training team at a Seattle bank. Within a year she realized banking wasn’t her calling. Instead, she explored a burgeoning interest in volunteering, which led to meetings with Seattle leaders, which in turn led to career opportunities in outreach and community engagement. After a six-year stint with the Snohomish County Public Utilities District, she landed a job as part of the team behind the 1990 Seattle Goodwill Games. Her work with the games paved the way for what she calls “the best job ever” as director of executive service for the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“The Olympics were a defining moment in my career,” says Williams, a 2009 graduate of SU’s Master of Public Administration program. “It was an incredible experience and an opportunity to learn from so many different people from all over the world.”

By 1992 she was on to Atlanta to join the organizing group for the 1996 Summer Olympics, where she was part of a team tasked with recruitment, placement and training of the game’s 40,000 volunteers.

When the Olympics were over, Williams moved with her family to the Netherlands Antilles, where she lived for two years as her husband taught at the International School of Curaçao. She embraced the culture by teaching ESL and doing contract work for the University of the Netherlands. As her husband’s teaching assignment in Curaçao was coming to an end, she came across a job posting for a position that closely aligned with her employment history and skills: Providence Medical Center in Seattle was looking for a director of community services and volunteers.

“The Sisters of Providence mission and values were very close to my personal values, so the position was a positive match,” says Williams, who was hired on in 1999.

When Providence was acquired by Swedish Medical Center a year later, Williams’ role expanded to director of volunteer services for three hospital campuses and an emergency department. During this time she decided it was time to go back to school to earn a master’s degree, which led her to SU and the MPA program.

"We're all busy. But even the busiest people in the world can make the time to better themselves and others."
-Sherry Williams, '09 MPA, Director of Community Affairs/Swedish Hospital 

“I had all of these [professional] experiences and skills that I had gained, but I felt that it was time to put a degree behind it,” she says. “I wanted an institution of merit and social value that was recognized not only locally but also nationally.”

After a restructuring of departments at Swedish, Williams’ professional life took another turn as she was asked to help create a new community affairs position under external affairs at Swedish, which she did in 2009. Today she serves the director of community affairs, a role that puts her out front raising the profile and presence of Swedish in the community, offering health and wellness resources to citizen groups, institutions and churches, an area where outreach in the past was splintered. As part of this work, Williams has developed or managed special projects including the Global to Local Initiative, collaboration with community clinics, and Checking Our Pulse, an exhibit at the Northwest African American Museum showcasing health leaders and healers in the African American community. Additionally, Williams continues to be engaged with SU through her involvement with the SU Youth Initiative, Athletics, and service learning projects and, with Swedish, through serving as a community partner for the First Hill Streetcar.

When discussing the rewards of her work with Swedish, Williams cites the gratification that comes with telling “the Swedish story.”

“It’s not about the number of patients we serve, but how we serve our patients.”

Because volunteerism and outreach have factored heavily in Williams’ professional and personal achievements, she encourages others to make the time to make a difference.

“We’re all busy. But even the busiest people in the world can make the time to better themselves and others.”


Sherry Williams, '09 MPA, is a community advocate by profession and by choice.