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Professor Connie Shapiro honored with retirement reception
On September 6, the Family Resiliency Center (FRC) celebrated the retirement of Professor Connie Shapiro, a former FRC interim director and Human and Community Development (HCD) department head. Shapiro was instrumental in shaping the HCD’s identity from its inception. When she arrived from Cornell University in 1996, HCD was a brand new department, having been created during a restructuring of what would become the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Through Shapiro’s steady leadership and vision, HCD flourished.
Shapiro raised awareness for HCD research and studies and also introduced new courses. One of her most recent accomplishments was creating a new minor in adult development, which is currently in the approval process. Shapiro has always been dedicated to educating and mentoring students, which led her to heading the James Scholar program for the HCD. She was also involved in the fundraising for Doris Kelley Christopher Hall, named after the Pampered Chef founder and Illinois alumni who donated to the construction of the building that would house the FRC, as well helping oversee the building’s design and construction.
To honor Shapiro, the FRC as well as other HCD and university alumni, faculty, and staff hosted a reception in the foyer of Christopher Hall. Professor Susan Silverberg Koerner, current head of the HCD, spoke at length about Shapiro’s many contributions to the department and university. In what would be a running theme throughout the evening, Koerner emphasized Shapiro’s positive nature and lasting impact: “It’s (Shapiro’s retirement) a major loss to this campus, college, and department. Connie has been the heart and soul of so many things that make the department unique and special.”
After Koerner’s introduction, the floor was opened to anyone who wanted to praise Shapiro or tell stories about her. Many of the faculty present at the event, including Professor Laurie Kramer and Professor Bob Hughes, used the opportunity to speak about the positive impact that Shapiro has had on their life. Both have worked closely with Shapiro, and it was evident that, in addition to being colleagues, they had each cultivated a sincere friendship. “Connie is an amazing leader, a wonderful scholar, and most importantly, a great advocate for all of us and a wonderful friend,” said Kramer.
“If I ever wondered what a good model would be for being a department head or administrator, then Dr. Shapiro would be that model,” added Hughes. “She has always just been there to talk about anything.”
Also among the speakers, was HCD student Alison Ganko. Ganko, a Teacher’s Assistant in some of Shapiro’s classes, worked closely with the retiring professor, helping her create a new course and establishing the previously mentioned minor in adult development. Particularly mindful of the positive contributions that Shapiro has had on her undergraduate career, Ganko elaborated by saying, “When I first began college, the importance of getting to know your professor was heavily stressed, but it wasn’t until I met Professor Shapiro that I realized how important that really was. I didn’t know then (meeting Shapiro), the impact she would have on my life,” said Ganko. “The experiences I have had with Professor Shapiro were some of my most cherished memories here.”
To finish the afternoon, Koerner, on behalf of the HCD department, presented Shapiro with a framed picture of Doris Kelley Christopher Hall. A beaming Shapiro thanked all the attendees and all the people that have helped her in her long and prestigious career here at Illinois. “This University is a great university, and being a part of it has been amazing,” Shapiro said as she looked out into the crowd of friends and colleagues. “As I look around…we’ve all been more than colleagues—it’s really been very special.”