R. Champlin "Champ" Sheridan Jr., founder of a leading scientific, technical and trade printing company and a major benefactor of the Johns Hopkins University, died Aug. 7 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at VNA Hospice House in Vero Beach, Fla.
He was 83.
"The thing that comes to mind with Champ was that he was a very clever entrepreneur who was always looking for ways to do things differently and advance his business," said John A. Saxton, who was president of Noxell from 1990 to 1994, and has been CEO and president of the Sheridan Group since 1995.
"He was a very introspective and thoughtful person. He had high expectations for people and cared a lot for them and willingly shared his success with them," said Mr. Saxton. "He was a very generous person."
Richard Champlin Sheridan Jr. — he did not use his first name — was born in Baltimore and raised on Taplow Road in Homeland. He was the son of Richard C. Sheridan Sr., president and part owner of Schneiderith & Sons Inc., a Baltimore printing company, and Jeannette Kidd Sheridan, a homemaker.
A 1948 graduate of Friends School, Mr. Sheridan earned a bachelor's degree from Hopkins in 1952 and served as a first lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War.
After being discharged from the Army, he returned to Baltimore and went to work with his father at Schneiderith.
In 1961, he left the company and moved to Hanover, Pa., where he took a job at Everybody's Press Inc. as production manager and was later promoted to general manager.
The small publisher and commercial printing firm that was established in 1915 was best known for printing and publishing Everybody's Poultry magazine.
Six years later, he scraped together $1,000 — "all the cash I had," he later said in an interview — purchased the business from the two retiring owners, and set about making it grow.
Mr. Saxton said it was the technology boom of the 1960s that gave Mr. Sheridan the boost he needed.
"This would have been in the area of scientific, technical, and medical publishing. There was the space program and research money for cancer research," said Mr. Saxton. "He saw that coming. It was his core business and he can be credited with building his company into one of the largest in the world."
In 1987, Mr. Sheridan purchased a competitor, Braun-Brumfield Inc. of Ann Arbor, Mich., and combined it with what was then Sheridan Press to form today's Sheridan Group.
The Hunt Valley-based company has five subsidiaries in Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Michigan that specialize in printing of scientific, technical, medical and scholarly journals, scholarly books, trade and special-interest magazines, commercial catalogs, publishing services and print technology.
Mr. Sheridan was the fourth recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Association of Printers and Lithographers.
"Success really is a path; it's not a destination," Mr. Sheridan explained in a 1994 interview with the Johns Hopkins University Alumni & Giving News. "It was not a case of dreaming where it would ultimately go. It's been my continual focus that if you got up each morning and put one foot in front of the other and make your best effort, you'll find at the end of the day that you've made a little progress."
He added: "If you do that every day, you'll keep making progress. I really hadn't dreamed or sensed where we would be or what we would be able to do."
"Champ Sheridan was an unusual person," said Ross Jones, now retired from Hopkins, where he had been vice president and secretary of the university. "Unpretentious, modest, and hugely generous, he was the consummate entrepreneur who had a touch for growing his company by acquiring other companies in which he saw potential for increased values. And he seemed driven to give back the fruits of his success to support those organizations in which he and his wife, Debbie, had a special interest."
Mr. Sheridan sold his business to BostonBank in 1998, and it is now owned by two New York equity groups. He remained on the company's board until 2003.
"It has continued to grow. It is Champ's legacy, and he has used his personal fortune to help others," said Mr. Saxton. "And through his philanthropy, he wanted to make the world a better place in which to live."
"Through Ross," Mr. Sheridan told the Johns Hopkins University Gazette in a 2003 interview, "I was given insight into what were the areas of the university that needed help. ... We saw that the library is sort of an underdog that needs attention and often is taken for granted."
Mr. Sheridan and his wife initially gave $300,000 to start a special library campaign, and in 1990 pledged $2.5 million, in part to endow the directorship of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library at Homewood.
In 1994, the couple made a $20 million commitment to nearly double the library's endowment and support renovations there.
William C. Richardson who was then president of the university, described the couple as "the library visionaries of our generation." He added, "Johns Hopkins is fortunate beyond words to benefit from their devotion to the printed word and to the legacy of learning, and from their enthusiasm for innovation in scholarly communication."
In honor of their generosity, the university in 1998 collectively rechristened the Eisenhower Library and its satellite collections at the Albert D. Hutzler Reading Room, the John Work Garrett Library at Evergreen Museum and Library, the George Peabody Library and the Brody Learning Library, as "The Sheridan Libraries."
"It is the cornerstone, the foundation of the university — the university as a forum for exchanging ideas and developing knowledge, not as a building or edifice," said Mr. Sheridan in 1994. He said that he and his wife "felt we could have a more long-lasting and broader reach by focusing on the library rather than other portions of the university."
Mr. Sheridan and his wife also financially supported the Hopkins' schools of arts and sciences, medicine, nursing, and public health, as well as Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins University Press.
He served as a trustee of both the university and Johns Hopkins Medicine and had been vice chair of the university's board.
"Champ was someone who took his education and considerable talents and became quite successful," said Ronald J. Daniels, now president of the university. "He was not interested in simply making his way in the world, however; Champ was interested in making the way a little easier and a little brighter for those who followed."
Mr. Sheridan, who had lived in the Woodbrook neighborhood of Baltimore County and in recent years lived in Vero Beach, enjoyed reading and playing golf.
He was a communicant of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 7.
In addition to his wife of 33 years, the former Beverly Ann "Debbie" Gold, Mr. Sheridan is survived by a son, Richard C. Sheridan III of Severna Park; three daughters, Sally Wright Sheridan of Oklahoma City, Barrett Cathell Sheridan of Mechanicsburg, Pa., and Amy Beth Sheridan Fazackerley of Alexandria, Va.; a stepson, Jon Strathmeyer of York, Pa.; a sister, Jean Adams of Hilton Head, S.C.; and 10 grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Suzanne Hooker Stevens ended in divorce.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun