Cindy Baier with Bill Sheriff
Brookdale Senior Living President and CEO Cindy Baier with Bill Sheriff in 2018 when he rejoined the company as a consultant.

Former Brookdale Senior Living CEO W.E. “Bill” Sheriff is being remembered for the mentorship and other contributions he made to the senior living industry.

Sheriff passed away Saturday.

“Though he was a man of few words, Bill personified leadership and service at the very highest level, mentoring a new generation of industry leaders and leaving a tremendous legacy,” American Seniors Housing Association President and CEO David Schless said Saturday in a message to members.

ASHA inducted Sheriff into the inaugural class of its Senior Living Hall of Fame in 2018, having also given him a Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017, Sheriff received a Distinguished Service Award for lifetime achievement from Argentum.

“Bill’s accomplishments in senior living are numerous, and we are grateful to acknowledge his work with Argentum in helping to establish Tennessee’s initial assisted living program, which was realized through his extensive professional and political contacts and direct work with then Gov. Phil Bredesen,” Argentum said Sunday in a statement. “Bill was also an early supporter and encouraged many Brookdale executives throughout the years to participate with Argentum’s executive roundtables and related programs.”

Sheriff was CEO of Brentwood, TN-based Brookdale from 2006 — after Brookdale acquired American Retirement Corp., where he was CEO — until 2013, when he retired. But he returned to the company in 2018 to serve as a consultant after Lucinda “CIndy” Baier was named president and CEO.

“Bill was a pioneer in the industry,” Baier told McKnight’s Senior Living on Sunday. “He made time to help his colleagues and his competitors. He will forever be remembered for his unprecedented and incomparable contributions to the industry.”

Baier said that Sheriff had “a tremendous impact on my life and the lives of so many others, including countless numbers of residents and associates” and noted that he was Brookdale’s longest-serving CEO. “We will greatly miss him,” she added.

A native of Las Cruces, NM, Sheriff earned his undergraduate degree in mathematics in 1965 from New Mexico State University; he and his wife later established the Bill & Sharon Sheriff Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship and funded scholarships there.

Sheriff took the reins of his family’s truck stop business at age 22 and expanded it. Nine years later, the company was sold to the Ryder System’s then-new national network of truck stops.

He stayed, and under his leadership from 1975 to 1984, Ryder’s Truckstops of America division grew to become the largest chain of corporate-owned-and-operated truck stops in the country. Sohio acquired the company in 1984.

Sheriff then transitioned to the position of CEO of ARC, the Nashville, TN-based senior living developer and operator that was backed by the founders of Hospital Corporation of America.

Specializing in continuing care retirement / life plan communities, ARC went public in 1997 before being acquired by Brookdale nine years later.

Under his leadership, Brookdale became the nation’s largest operator of senior living communities, with 647 communities in 35 states by the time he retired.

Sheriff is survived by his wife, Sharon, and a son, Glen. A daughter, Charlotte, preceded him in death in 2019.

“Bill’s quiet yet caring nature will leave a lasting legacy to the residents that call senior living home and all those who serve in the senior living industry,” Argentum said.

Editor’s note, Aug. 29: Read additional comments about Sheriff shared by Brookdale here.