Giving Back: One Cigar at a Time

Joel Sherman sits with his children, Bill ’85, Michele and Larry Sherman ’92 in their
family cigar shop, Nat Sherman, Inc. in New York City. Founded by their grandfather
in 1930, Bill and Larry are the third generation of Shermans to work at the shop, where
they are both executive vice presidents. Firm believers that life’s biggest moments
deserve a fine cigar, the brothers give every graduating Hobart senior an official Hobart
Cigar at the annual Hobart Launch each spring.

by Jonathan Everitt

Two brothers who both came through Hobart College more than 20 years ago are now busy making their mark on the family business. Just like the family business now makes its mark on their alma mater.

Since 2004, Bill ’85 and Larry Sherman ’92, both executive vice presidents of Nat Sherman, Inc. in New York City, have been giving their company’s affectionately named Hobart Cigar as a signature element of The Hobart Launch, an annual ceremony in which soon-to-be Hobart graduates are welcomed into the brotherhood of Hobart alumni.

“It’s something that came from a conversation,” Larry says. “The Hobart Cigar was introduced in the mid-90s. In 2004, Jared Weeden ’91 in Alumni Relations reached out to me to ask about including the Hobart Cigar in The Hobart Launch, and I told him I’d be more than happy to support that. It’s a tradition that we as a family are ecstatic about participating in.”

During The Hobart Launch, each class member is handed a replica of the paddle of Chief Agayentah, a legendary Seneca Indian warrior who died on Seneca Lake. At the conclusion of the event, attendees also receive the official Hobart cigar, compliments of Nat Sherman, Inc.

Having a cigar to punctuate life’s biggest moments is a long-cherished practice—one the brothers say heightens the significance of the day.

“Smoking a cigar can be a very personal experience, but it can also be something that brings people together,” Larry explains. “Something for graduating seniors to share together. The smell of it, the ceremony.”

Founded by Bill and Larry’s grandfather in 1930, Nat Sherman has been savoring the smell of success for years, frequently recognized as one of the finest cigar makers in the country. And the Hobart Cigar remains one the brothers’ favorite offerings.

“We’ve created a lot of other products, but it still has a very near and dear place in our heart, and it’s one of our best sellers. It’s also one I enjoy going back to,” Larry says.

Giving their products names that speak to their uniqueness as a business? That’s a family tradition, too.

“It goes back to what makes our company special,” Bill says. “Instead of just using traditional names, like Churchill, we’ve taken a unique approach to our cigars and named them for things that are more indicative of who our company is and who we are as a family.”

When you’re a Sherman, family traditions run deep. In fact, a fresh crop of family members is enrolled or on the way to HWS.

“The next generation of our family is starting to go to HWS,” Larry says. “It was thrilling to write a letter of recommendation for my nephew. And I have another nephew who’s already there.”

Inspiring enrollment and providing personal financial support aren’t the only contributions the Brothers Sherman have made to the Colleges. They’ve had their share of interns from HWS—and at least one employee is a HWS grad.

“Larry and I are both appreciative of what Hobart meant for us,” Bill says. “We’ve been very supportive of the Colleges, and helped sponsor events for alums at the townhouse,” he adds, referring to the flagship store and cigar lounge on 42nd Street in Manhattan. And the way they earned their place in the family business can be a lesson for recent graduates, too.

“Our father had a rule for all of us. The family business is always there for you, but before you do that you have to go out on your own,” Larry says. “And once you’ve done that in your own right, you’re welcome to join the family business.”

“He encouraged us to start outside of the family business,” Bill says. “He told us, ‘If you only learn from me, you’ll only know as much as I do.’ Those values help us contribute more to the family business.”

Bill, a history major, went to work for an advertising company that specialized in point-of-purchase signage while Larry, an English major, first ventured into the executive travel business, followed by a stint at Polo Ralph Lauren.

But both men returned to the family company with a broader perspective on work and business— and more to offer their colleagues.

“Our family is very close,” Larry says. “So even though we were all branching out and exploring other things, one thing that always drew us back was the closeness of our family and the chance to work with our siblings and our mother and father. We can talk about it around the family dinner table.”


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