One of U.Va.’s most influential women leaders dies
|Shirley Menaker (above) received the Elizabeth Zintl Leadership Award in 2002.
By Anne Bromley
One of the most powerful female leaders in the University’s late 20th-century history, Shirley Lasch Menaker, died Dec. 24 at her home in Charlottesville after a valiant battle with cancer. Known to be fair, tireless and tenacious, Menaker retired from U.Va. as associate provost for academic support and classroom management after an academic career spanning more than 35 years.
Menaker grew up in Jersey City, received a B.A. in English literature from Swarthmore College in 1956 and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Boston University by 1965. She held academic and administrative posts at the University of Oregon and University of Texas for 18 years before coming to U.Va.
“Shirley Menaker was a remarkable person, an accomplished administrator with boundless energy, intelligence and balance,” said provost Gene Block. “She was a leader and a good listener. Many successful projects at U.Va. owe their existence to her very capable effort,” he added.
Menaker’s responsibilities included supervision of the offices that support the University’s academic mission, such as the Registrar’s Office, the Women’s Center, the University Art Museum, the University Press, Summer Session and the Upward Bound program. She also was U.Va.’s liaison to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, working on matters such as space use, new degree programs and annual reviews.
“Shirley was an indispensable member of the provost’s team during the years we shared in that office,” said law professor and former provost Peter W. Low of the seven years they worked together. “Her work was characterized by a set of skills not often found in the same person. Foremost was her indefatigable attention to detail. To an unusual degree in such a person, though, she combined this consistent approach to the task at hand with good judgment and the ability to view the larger picture in proper perspective.”
Calling Menaker “a gem,” Low added, “she was a jack-of-all-trades, always available for special assignments, which she discharged promptly, accurately and in good humor.”
In recognition of her accomplishments, the Women’s Center honored Menaker with the Elizabeth Zintl Leadership Award in February 2002. The colleagues who nominated her described her as someone with a keen grasp of facts and figures, a fair-minded approach to confronting difficult issues and finding solutions to problems, a deep understanding of University life, and a faithful dedication to her duties.
Menaker was an inspiration to her colleagues, especially women, said E. Clorisa Phillips, who began working for the provost’s office as special projects director four years ago. “She paved the way and set an example for many women in many places. She demonstrated daily that a woman can be smart, tenacious, incredibly accomplished at her work, zealous about her professional and personal causes, and passionate about her family.”
After winning the Zintl award, Menaker said she also considered the University community her extended family.
She is survived by her husband, Michael Menaker, a son, a daughter and three grandchildren.
A memorial service for Shirley Menaker will be held at the University Chapel in the near future. Details will be announced in an upcoming issue of Top News Daily.