A 1959 graduate with a degree in saxophone performance, Morgantown native Jack Sharretts credits the educational foundation he received at West Virginia University for his successful career with the Department of Defense. He plans to give back to WVU with an estate gift to the School of Music.
Sharretts received a Board of Governors Scholarship to attend WVU and was the first student to graduate with a saxophone degree. Sharretts took more than 190 hours of course credits in a variety of subjects throughout the university before graduating.
A trip to Washington, D.C. with a WVU classmate was the catalyst for Sharretts’ 30+ year career in the Department of Defense as a linguist, intelligence analyst and foreign relations liaison officer.
Focused primarily in Southeast Asia, Sharretts career took him out of the country where he was stationed for months - and sometimes years - at a time in places including Vietnam and Thailand.
Eventually, Sharretts moved back to the United States, landing in Maryland before taking one last assignment in Hawaii. After his retirement in 1994, Sharretts moved back to Maryland where he still lives today.
A self-described “curious fellow,” Sharretts recalls being the inquisitive kind since he was a child.
“I remember since first grade, I was always interested in reading about this or that or the other thing, whether I was a serious student of some of it or just wanted to know a little bit more, at least I was exposed to it,” Sharretts said.
He believes his willingness to try new things and keep his options open led to his successful career.
“There was no great plan in any of this,” Sharretts said. “I was always willing to explore new things and that’s when I would learn I had an aptitude for something like music or language, and it would lead me down a new path. My perspective and life path were always changing.”
Sharretts continued to practice his saxophone when he could during his career, but sometimes had to stop for months or years at a time. After retirement, he was able to pick back up where he left off and join ensembles in the Baltimore and Washington area, many of which he still practices and performs with today.
One of those ensembles, a jazz group, combined Sharretts love of music with his love of travel. He started touring in Europe with the band every two years, playing jazz festivals and making friends all around the world.
Sharretts still spends much of his time globe trotting to visit friends around the world he made throughout his 30+ year career.
When considering his legacy, Sharretts thought there was no better place to leave it with than WVU’s School of Music. He doesn’t want any fuss of naming a building or having a say in how his gift is used, Sharretts just wants to know his gift is helping the next generation of students.
“I have seen how the School of Music has grown and prospered since my time at WVU,” Sharretts said. “The team at the school knows their own needs best and I’m just happy I can help with that in some way.”