Helen Anderson Sharp
June 27, 1924 — April 28, 2022
Her children have established the Helen Anderson Sharp Opportunity Award in her memory at Pellissippi State Community College. Each year the award will fully fund an enriching and pivotal experience for a young woman, including study abroad programs, in order to propel her career choices and expand her mentor network.
"Well, you should just do that then!"
—Helen Sharp, to anyone thinking of taking positive action in their life
Helen Anderson Sharp was born on June 27, 1924, and grew up in Union County in the 1920s and 1930s. Helen was constantly learning from her parents, who were both schoolteachers, and she skipped several grades to become Salutatorian of Horace Maynard High School (now Union County High School) Class of 1939 at age 14. At age 18 she graduated from the University of Tennessee at a time when the career options for women were quite circumscribed. She went on to become one of the first administrative employees at the then-secretive Oak Ridge facility that was involved in the WWII war effort.
After marrying in 1949, Helen became a full-time mom and manager of the family real estate holdings. She was also an avid flower arranger and member of the Green Thumb Garden Club in Fountain City, helping to lay out some of the first Dogwood Trails that are now a mainstay of Knoxville’s spring. She devoted herself to her children’s development, always being supportive of new experiences and non-judgmental of failure. If one of her children wanted to join scouts and there wasn’t a scout troop, she started one. If another wanted to learn how to roller skate, she arranged for a weekly afternoon where a bus took elementary kids to the roller skating rink in Fountain City. If another came home and announced she wanted to live abroad for a year, she began immediately figuring out how to make that happen.
Starting in her late 70s, Helen learned how to use a computer and regularly corresponded by email, which was extraordinary for someone who grew up before typewriters were common. Helen retained her inquisitive approach to life and remained conversant on public, business, and current affairs until the end of her life.
She is preceded in death by her husband, Dr. John Buckner Sharp, Jr., and her parents, H.E. and Belvia Ousley Anderson. She leaves her children, Nancy Sharp Voith and son-in-law Kenneth A. Stark of Knoxville, TN; Paul Anderson Sharp and daughter-in-law Lily Sharp of Burbank, CA, and Mary Jean (MJ) Sharp and partner Beth Ann Koelsch of Durham, NC. She also leaves grandson Patrick Sharp Voith and daughter-in-law Mandy Voith; grandson Austin Ousley Voith and daughter-in-law Tiffany Voith; and granddaughter Kelly Fogarty Voith, all of Dallas; and granddaughter Christine Sharp Duhancioglu and son-in-law Andrew Duhancioglu; and grandson John Clinton Sharp, all of Burbank, CA; and great-grandchildren Kennedy and Zach Voith of Dallas. The family deeply appreciates the kind companionship and care of Lisa Francis over the past several years.
Helen was a woman always interested in entrepreneurship and broad business opportunities, but those kinds of career options were not available to young women at the time. She said many times, “When I graduated from UT, I had only three career choices. I could be a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse. That was it.”
As she spent her life supporting her children in whatever they pursued, they are honoring her memory and hoping to continue her generosity of spirit by establishing the Helen Anderson Sharp Opportunity Award at Pellissippi Community College. Each year the award will fully fund an enriching and pivotal experience for a young woman, including study abroad programs, in order to propel her career choices and expand her mentor network. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Helen Anderson Sharp Opportunity Award at this link: https://pellissippistatefoundation.org/helen/