After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis in 1965, Shirley Brown was hired as the first African-American teacher at Russell Boulevard Elementary School in Columbia, Missouri. In 1967, she was hired to work in public relations with the New Orleans Saints football club and later held the position of program coordinator for the Office of Minority Student Affairs at Iowa State University. Returning to St. Louis, Shirley briefly taught again and then became an administrator with the St. Louis Public Schools’ School Partnership Program in 1981. In that role, she coordinated more than 300 partnerships between the school system and community supporters, including Fortune 500 companies, cultural institutions, hospitals, governmental agencies, professional sports teams and the media. She also managed partnerships with several universities, including the University of Missouri-Columbia and WUSTL, coordinating more than $3 million in-kind dollars to city schools.
Throughout her professional career, Shirley has been recognized for her exceptional work in the community. In 2001, the Cooperating School Districts (CSD) recognized her work in the area of African-American achievement and, Iota Phi Lambda sorority honored her for “distinguished service as an American educator.” Shirley retired in 2003 and continues to facilitate partnerships between the St. Louis Public Schools and the public and private sectors in her capacity as educational consultant.
It is her commitment to and faith in the underserved youth of St. Louis that drives Shirley to become involved in countless outreach programs. Although she is not formally an employee of the Wellston School District, she works tirelessly to improve the public school system and enrich the educational opportunities afforded to each student. Every summer, she volunteers her time to help manage all seven summer programs co-sponsored by the district. She has also developed a unique opportunity in partnership with Washington University School of Medicine for aspiring doctors. In this program, high school students participate every Saturday in a variety of activities that expose them to the medical field. Shirley’s “Saturday Scholars Program” serves to empower students through education while inspiring them to remain involved with the St. Louis community upon reaching their professional goals.
Shirley’s strength lies in the personal relationships she builds with those in the community. In her nomination, Diana Barbosa, WUSTL junior and Wellston Summer School Program intern, stated, “Shirley recognizes the disparities within the community that have often discouraged or kept students from pursuing their educational goals. She sees past these barriers, empowering each student with the respect and dignity they deserve.”