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SED’s “Point of Light” Bids BU Farewell

On Ruth Shane’s watch, BU’s educational outreach programs have guided hundreds to success

Boston University BU, School of Education SED, Ruth Shane retires, Initiative on Cities, Menino Scholars

After almost 40 years and many success stories, Ruth Shane is retiring as head of BU’s Public Schools Collaborative. Photo by Cydney Scott

In 1975, when the BU School of Education hired Ruth Shane full-time to run the college’s community experience programs, she’d recently  completed her master’s degree here and thought she’d work at BU for two or three years. That was a stunningly low estimate; she found it impossible to walk away from BU’s growing partnership with the city’s youth, and after BU chose her in 1982 to direct its fledgling Boston Public Schools Collaborative, she never left. The collaborative now oversees more than a dozen programs, including Upward Bound; Upward Bound Math and Science; Step UP, which joins with other universities to help 10 Boston schools; and the federal work-study program BUILD.

Later this week, after hearing recitations of a long list of accolades for her outreach work, and after years of watching like a proud parent as hundreds of students from Upward Bound—the campus-based college preparatory program for low-income and first-generation city high schoolers—and Menino Scholars (formerly Boston Scholars) achieve professional success, Shane (SED’73) is retiring. It’s a move she compares to “stepping off a cliff into the unknown.” But it’s time, she says. “It feels good.”

Shane’s position, which she took over from a director who served only two years, was created as a response to Judge W. Arthur Garrity, Jr.’s historic Boston public school desegregation and compulsory school busing ruling in 1974. Her long career parallels the most tumultuous as well as the most fruitful years of the city’s educational system as it addressed—and continues to address—the challenge of equal opportunity among Boston’s diverse student population.

“I was at SED placing BU students in volunteer opportunities; that’s how I got drawn in,” says Shane, who honed the SED school collaboration program along with other BU colleges, including Metropolitan College, the College of Communication, and the College of Arts & Sciences. The unprecedented partnership between higher education and public schools was in large part the creation of Robert Sperber, a former Brookline school superintendent hired as an advisor by the late John Silber (Hon’95), president of BU from 1971 to 1996.

The money was flowing—there were plenty of grants—but it was Shane and her SED experience that gave the collaborative its human side and turned it into something life-changing, says Douglas Sears, vice president and chief of staff to BU President Robert A. Brown. Sears says he turned to Shane over the years when he wanted to understand “who does what and why” in Boston public schools. “Ruth is one of those people who works at that place where noble-sounding ideas get tested, implemented, and improved,” says Sears. “She’s the person who figures out how to deliver tutors and interns to public schools and make sure their work isn’t just a ‘feel good’ exercise.”

Driven by Shane’s down-to-earth manner, what Sears calls her “watchful, loving, eye,” and modest efficiency, high school principals’ early reluctance to embrace the programs eased as the schools grew more open to BU and other universities’ involvement. Today the programs remain crucial, even in light of greater flexibility and innovations such as school choice, says Shane. “The schools are far less suspicious of higher ed,” she says, “but the issues are still there—teacher quality, diversity among teachers. The school system is working at bringing a measure of equity to reduce the number of parents placing their children in charter schools.”

“Her commitment to equity is unparalleled,” says Hardin Coleman, dean of SED. “For decades she has provided leadership in the work that we do to support college access and college completion of Boston public school students.”

In 2009 Shane’s contribution to BU was recognized by her colleagues, the BU Faculty Council, who presented her with the John S. Perkins Distinguished Service Award. And a photograph on Shane’s office wall captures the moment President George H. W. Bush shook her hand as she accepted the 1991 Point of Light Award (#351) for her Partners in Learning mentoring program.

As director of the collaborative, Shane developed and shepherded a long list of initiatives as well as served as a higher education representative on many school and community advisory boards and committees. She also coordinates BU’s role in the America Reads literary challenge, which matches BU students with students at Boston middle schools.

There are many former Boston Scholars who now teach in the Boston schools, says Shane. “There are also doctors, lawyers, and bankers who’ve been part of my life for decades. My message to students is, ‘your success is BU’s success,’” says Shane, who is particularly proud of the Menino Scholars, the Upward Bound college preparatory program, and SED’s partnership with the William Monroe Trotter Innovation School in Dorchester, a former magnet school that was desegregated. Along with the English High School of Boston, the Trotter School was part of the Step UP program created in 2006 by then-Mayor Thomas M. Menino (Hon.’01), currently codirector of BU’s Initiative on Cities, which teamed five local universities with public schools that were faring poorly in meeting the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Over the years, Shane has formed close relationships with young scholars (both Upward Bound graduates and Menino Scholars) that carry on to this day. “They’re these amazingly wonderful people, and I’ve developed adult relationships with them,” says Shane. “They come back to BU and we have a cocktail and schmooze. I keep up with their lives through Facebook, watch their kids grow up.” When the scholars have reunions or events “they come from all over the country,” says Shane.

But beyond all the young people Shane and the collaborative have nurtured and inspired, she is also fortunate that the program, born out of Boston’s racial disparities, has led to an ongoing, “honest conversation about race and ethnicity at a very deep level,” she says. “I am truly a better person for having been in this job.”

19 Comments
Susan Seligson

Susan Seligson can be reached at sueselig@bu.edu.

19 Comments on SED’s “Point of Light” Bids BU Farewell

  • John McEachern on 08.27.2014 at 6:56 am

    Thank you for everything you’ve done, Ruth. You will be missed.

  • Megan Sullivan on 08.27.2014 at 9:27 am

    Such amazing work you’ve done! Have a happy, well-deserved break.

  • Sarah Fish on 08.27.2014 at 9:41 am

    Congratulations and best wishes for this new exciting phase in your life! Thank you for all you have done for BU, SED, BPS, and the countless students you have influenced.

  • John Regan on 08.27.2014 at 10:01 am

    Ruth, you mean so much to so many in the BU community and we will miss you dearly. Best wishes for what’s ahead in your life.

  • Sonia Parker on 08.27.2014 at 10:19 am

    Congratulations, Ruth, on a terrific job done so gracefully over the years! Your legacy will live on as those who have benefitted pay it forward.
    Very best to you as the next chapter opens up!

  • Ceronne B. Daly on 08.27.2014 at 10:40 am

    Congratulations Ruth for all you have done to support the students and educators in the Boston Public Schools

  • Melanie Madaio-O'Brien on 08.27.2014 at 12:10 pm

    Best wishes for a long and happy retirement! BU is losing one of its treasures! You will be missed.

  • Jeanne Domenichella on 08.27.2014 at 1:13 pm

    It has been such a pleasure working with you Ruth. Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors.

  • Michael Dennehy on 08.27.2014 at 2:06 pm

    I first met Ruth in 1986 as I was an incoming Boston Scholar. Like so many of the students she has advised and helped over the years, I am truly grateful for her commitment to her students. Beyond her direct work with hundreds of Boston Scholars over her career, she brought numerous outreach programs to Boston University (Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math Science, GEAR UP, and A+ Academy) which have helped thousands of students prepare for and earn college degrees. I count myself luck to call her a mentor, colleague and friend.

    • Raul A Fernandez on 08.28.2014 at 1:30 pm

      The true measure of an educator is one’s ability to inspire others. Ruth has done just that for Mike, for me, and for so many others. Congrats on a well-earned retirement!

  • Samantha M Khosla on 08.27.2014 at 3:38 pm

    Ruth, thank you for your good work for our students and our faculty.

  • Margaret Mcgonagle Mannion on 08.27.2014 at 5:10 pm

    As a person who directly benefitted from Ruth’s dedication, I’m so happy to see her accomplishments published for all to see. She was a point of light for me and a huge part in my success, so thank you Ruth and enjoyed your well deserved changes to come!

  • Daniel Fitzpatrick on 08.27.2014 at 5:12 pm

    You have truly been a guiding light to so many kids. You have done so much to help generations of students that may not have had anywhere else to turn. Have a wonderful retirement Ruth.

  • CFA Major on 08.27.2014 at 9:33 pm

    Thanks for everything Ruth. You will be missed.

  • Shamikhah Baker on 08.28.2014 at 9:00 am

    Congratulations Ruth! Thank you for all of your work on behalf of students from the city of Boston.

  • Reggie on 08.28.2014 at 11:16 am

    When you work in educational access and opportunity you change the trajectory of people’s lives. I have known Ruth since 1994 as a BU student and continued to develop a relationship with Ruth as a staff member of Upward Bound. She once called me an “honorary Boston (Menino) Scholar”, but I am the one who is honored to have worked with Ruth through the years. Her contributions to Upward Bound and the Collaborative Office have changes the lives of communities.

  • Douglas Zook on 08.29.2014 at 10:25 am

    Your work and dedication to important values have had a lasting impact on so many young people. Thank you and enjoy many new ventures and special times ahead! Doug

  • Ryan Green on 08.31.2014 at 3:22 pm

    I have known Ruth Shane since I was a BU scholar in the class of 2005. She was such supporting and encouraging presence at such a crucial time in my life. She is an inspiration and I hope she enjoys her retirement to its fullest.

  • MinhChau Vu on 09.25.2014 at 2:28 pm

    Congratulation and thank you very much Ruth. Happy Retiring.
    MinhChau Hung Vu
    Boston High School Scholar recipient – 1987

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