Although Fowler retired after the 2011-12 season, following a six-year tenure as Hillgrove’s founding coach, her legacy will live on after Hillgrove administrators recently named its main gymnasium in her honor. The facility was rechristened Sheryl J. Fowler Gymnasium with a 62-53 victory over Region 4AAAAAA rival Campbell on Jan. 11.
“It was a total surprise to (Fowler),” Hillgrove athletic director Sherri Thoroughman said. “She didn’t know anything about it until she was called down onto the floor. She’s so well-respected and loved by so many people that naming the gym after her was an easy decision to make.”
After Fowler’s retirement, Thoroughman, principal Robert Shaw, boys basketball coach Ed Morris and current girls coach Susan Milam — a former assistant of Fowler’s — discussed ways to honor Fowler’s contributions to Hillgrove and Cobb County. Naming the gym after her seemed like the most logical idea, and Shaw set the plan in motion by corresponding with the Cobb County School District.
“I’m still in shock,” Fowler said. “Everybody’s been super nice. It’s just hard for me to understand and comprehend. I’m choking up just talking about it. I don’t know if I deserve it.”
Thoroughman believes Fowler definitely deserves it.
“She’s touched so many lives over the years,” Thoroughman said. “We called a lot of people down to the floor who have worked with her or been involved in her life, and former players, since she started coaching. I even coached against her for many years when I was the girls basketball coach at Pebblebrook. It was so great to see her reaction because she’s so humble.”
Fowler described the moment as being akin to time standing still.
“When you’re shocked like that, it’s like everything moves in slow motion,” she said. “You go through so many emotions, and to see all the players and people from the community, and folks from Cobb County administration, there was just incredible.”
Fowler launched Hillgrove’s program after spending 16 years at McEachern and seven years the original Campbell High School. Although she never won a state championship, she compiled 568 victories in 30 seasons, made two trips to the state finals and had four semifinal appearances.
“Coaching in Cobb County has been my life,” Fowler said, “and I appreciate the opportunity (former Campbell) coach (Tom) Wilson gave me at Campbell to coach that team after only two years to begin my head-coaching career. I’ll never forget that.
“All of the kids, though, have done all of the work, I’ve just been a part of it.”
In her final two seasons at Hillgrove, Fowler led the Lady Hawks to the state quarterfinals in 2010-11 and a runner-up finish to McEachern in 2011-12.
“She’s like the Pat Summitt of coaches for us around here, and she influenced a lot of her students to become coaches as well,” said Randy McClure, who has led Campbell’s program since Fowler moved on to McEachern. “Her girls were always good defensively. She’s a real classy coach and very competitive.
“You could tell her girls always respected her. I can’t think of anybody better to be honored. She did a great thing for Hillgrove. She established that program, and it’s a great thing that they did because of the kind of person she is.”
One thing McClure mentioned — which Fowler agreed with — is that she is a humble person.
“(Hillgrove administrators) couldn’t tell (Fowler) about the ceremony because they knew that, if she knew, she wouldn’t have shown up,” McClure said. “But it’s such a well-deserved honor.”
“That’s right, if I had known about it, I wouldn’t have been here,” Fowler added. “I haven’t talked to anybody about it since it happened, but I’m just truly blessed and thankful. There just aren’t enough words to say.”