Saying Goodbye to a Pioneer

Impacting the Industry

As the CEO of Brookdale and one of its predecessor companies for almost 30 years, Bill led Brookdale through not only good times but also some tough years. His dedication and service to the company still strongly resonate throughout the communities of Brookdale.

Bill’s insight into senior living operations didn’t stop at the doors of Brookdale. His contributions made long-lasting impressions on not just the company, but the industry as well.

David Schless, president and CEO of American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), shared that while Bill, “was a man of few words, he personified leadership and service at the very highest level, mentoring a new generation of industry leaders and leaving a tremendous legacy.”

Dr. Frist understood healthcare and had a lifelong passion for helping seniors. Serving as mentors to Bill, Dr. Frist and Mr. Massey both helped Bill become a good and dedicated student of understanding what medical advances and changing demographics would mean for the senior living business.

“I recall Bill coming over for dinner as he was deciding whether to come on board,” shared Senator Frist. “Before he came in the door, I asked Dad why he thought Bill was just the person to develop and lead the company. I recall how Dad so accurately described him at the time — he was a builder, he was humble, he was determined, he was respectful, he imbued grace.”

We also celebrate all that Bill did for Brookdale, for the senior living industry and for those who we serve. We are all better for what he gave to 

There is much more that could be said about Bill, but we’ll leave it to others who had the privilege and opportunity to serve alongside him. 

  • “Bill leaves a legacy larger than the sky!  In his long career, everything he touched became better – including Direct Supply! His tireless energy, even at age 80, had him creating new businesses right up until this year. He was a perfect example of “running through the tape” until the last days of his life. His wisdom, coaching, and vision will be a guiding force for our company for decades to come!” (Bill served on Direct Supply’s Board for the last 10 years) - Bob Hillis

  • Bill was amazingly tenacious. Once he settled upon a goal, his commitment to achieving that goal was unwavering. On the wall of his office was a framed quote from Winston Churchill that said “never, never, never give up.” He lived that, to the benefit of many." - Todd Kaestner

  • Bill Sheriff was a friend and mentor to me for more than 30 years. I loved him dearly and learned much from him, and will miss him greatly. He was loving, kind, smart, doggedly determined, caring, loyal, generous to a fault, and detailed, but also, visionary in his thinking. He was all of those things and many more. But, the first thing that comes to my mind was his passion. Bill was passionate about everything that he did. Most importantly, he had the heart of a servant, and he was passionately committed to helping others. You could feel this every time you talked with him, and it started from a heart filled with love. At Brookdale, this meant serving our associates so that they, in turn, could best serve our residents and their families. Hence, Bill’s commitment to servant leadership and his unwavering emphasis on the importance of culture to any organization. Among his many achievements, this is his most important business legacy. The outpouring upon his passing is staggering to behold. It is almost unbelievable how many lives he positively touched and influenced. He was a great man, and he made this world a better place. I am reminded of the old adage that none of us is immortal and that the closest any of us can come to immortality is through the memories we leave behind. Bill surely is immortal to me, and I know to so many others. - Andy Smith, former Brookdale CEO
  • "In the first leadership meeting I attended after joining the company 27 years ago, Bill closed the meeting by bringing on stage and introducing his family in a personal way, and then shared that his goal was to live with the priorities of “faith, family and then work . . . in that order.” Bill championed “raising the bar” with high expectations and often quoted Churchill when he said, “sometimes it is not enough to do our best; we must do what is required.” And he found ways to stay close to the reality of challenges we faced by picking up the phone to call leaders in the field and walking around the office to receive quick updates on the priorities of the day – he demonstrated that leaders need unfiltered information to lead well.  If there is such a thing, Bill was a picture of intense humility." - Roger Thiele

  • "I remember every minute of my interview with Bill almost 19 years ago . . . he was an amazing man.” - Patrick Payne

  • "I will never forget the day I met Bill. It was the day I interviewed to be his assistant at ARC. After a very lengthy meeting with Bill, I met with a number of ARC associates who all advised me that Bill was “very intense.” Literally everyone I met used this same word to describe Bill, and I was a bit frightened by their warning. In addition to meeting his team, it was also important to Bill that I meet his wife, which is a bit unusual for the standard interview process. The first time I met Sharon, she was in the garage polishing silverware in shorts and a t-shirt for a dinner they were hosting that evening for ARC’s leadership team. In that moment I knew that if the CEO’s wife could meet me for the first time with dirty hands from polishing silverware, I wanted to work for Bill. As for Bill being intense, I soon learned Bill’s intensity stemmed from his passion and his commitment to excellence in serving others. - Linda DeVault

  • "Bill had a tremendous impact on my career in senior living and his leadership helped to shape my commitment to servant leadership and to a tireless dedication to improving the lives of seniors. Bill was intentionally thoughtful in all he did. His philosophy of “Take care of the resident and the bottom line will follow” was entrenched in my approach to senior living. He always challenged us to look for ways to make seniors’ lives better. That was a never-ending pursuit." John Nienstedt

  • Bill was my last hour, of 8 hours, of interviews for my first position with ARC. As I sat across from him, I was told to make sure I let him finish his thoughts before I speak. I was terrified. But I left his office inspired by him, even though I knew very little about him. One time, I asked him about the oar that hung in the training room and he said, 'it is the bar, and we must always step over the bar or keep rowing until we got there.' I loved his philosophy of, 'if you are not serving a resident, you better be serving someone who is.' I hear this so often now, when I am in meetings and think about Bill. The words “living the culture” had a very significant meeting." Brenda Calbow

  • Bill Sheriff put all of himself into everything he did. He lived with a continuous passion that never quit, and he touched countless lives with his good works and his good intentions. He made it clear that he only wanted to succeed in whatever he did by doing the right thing. Although Bill could be very demanding, he never demanded more of anyone than he gave of himself AND he made life-long friends everywhere he went. More than anything else, those life-long friends of his will remember Bill for his commitment to high ideals, his love of life and family, AND his sense of humor. - George Hicks

  • "One of the most poignant times for me, was when he surprised a very ill administrative assistant in our office at the airport at 6 AM - she was going home one last time, to be with her family in Utah. We were startled to see him when he walked up and he said to us, “Oh, I was just driving by…”  Bill stayed and talked with her until we got ready to board the plane and we said goodbye to him. At the last moment, we learned a ticket had not been purchased for her little dog. Bill had not left and when he saw there was something wrong, he came back over to the desk and took care of the ticket for her. I’ll never forget that day. I’ll miss him terribly. - Faye Childress

  • "One memory that stands out was very early in my tenure. We were at the 1997 National Conference (all 14 communities). We were going public with our IPO the following day and Bill was sharing the slide show deck that they had distributed across the country, and internationally, to investors. He’s telling us how the location of our CCRCs would help service the Homewood Residence Assisted Living communities that we’d build nearby. The CCRCs would be the Hub and the Homewoods would be the spokes. In the middle of his presentation his Executive Assistant, Ruby Wood, snuck in a picture of Bill holding his newborn (first) grandson, William. Of course, the audience all gave a giant “AWWWWE”. Without missing a beat Mr. Bill tells us that what he’s communicating is very important but that nothing is more important than family and faith. Right there, as a mother of four, I knew I’d made the right decision to work for him and ARC." - Bette McNamara

  • "Bill was one of the most admired men I have ever known, in large part to his belief and philosophy of “God, Family, Work, in that order” – this was shared with me when I first interviewed for a position with ARC almost 30 years ago.  Everyone knows that Bill was “intense”, but what they may not know was that he was as kind as he was intense. He was a humble man and I’m not sure he knew how much he was admired and respected. I remember Dr. Frist telling the story of how he broke his neck (literally) to get Bill Sheriff as CEO of ARC, and later Brookdale. The world would be a better place if it had more Bill Sheriffs. I hope he enjoyed and realized the triumph of his incredibly high achievements and the many lives he touched in such a positive manner." - Kristy Fincher