By Deb Silverthorn
Florence Shapiro has been an advocate and educator, the mayor of Plano, a Texas state senator, and a leader of many organizations in the DFW area. Acclaimed for much, yet it’s as the daughter of Ann Donald, a resident at The Legacy Willow Bend since its opening, that she will sit as guest interviewee at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, in the Chapel at The Legacy.
“Many residents watched Florence grow up. While we’re proud and appreciative of her success, she’s Ann’s daughter and that’s a blessing right there,” said Bob Weinfeld, who has hosted more than 100 “Getting to Know Your Neighbors and Your Staff and Your Relatives of Residents” interviews.
The hourlong program, open to the community, has introduced residents, staffers and community members to business leaders, museum curators, chefs, journalists, sports executives, clergy and more.
“I look forward to the interview, and the buzz is building,” said Weinfeld, The Legacy’s own “mayor,” on interviewing Plano’s former mayor and the question-and-answer period to follow.
Interviewed on topics local and global, for the former Zesmer BBG member and Hillcrest High School and University of Texas graduate, sitting on Weinfeld’s dais — no doubt with her mother watching from the front row — is exciting.
“My community devotion comes from Mother, the ultimate volunteer, and my business sense from my father,” said Shapiro. Her mother is a former president of the Friends of Golden Acres Dallas Home for Jewish Aged, and resident at The Legacy since its 2008 opening.
“The Legacy is filled with people I’ve known my whole life, and it’s an honor to be interviewed by Bob,” said Shapiro. “He is the ‘connector,’ and I’m always engaged by whatever he does. Bob is a very special part of this wonderful community within our community, and to know him is to love him. Besides, who could ever tell Bob ‘no’?”
Shapiro was born shortly after her parents, Martin of blessed memory and Ann, arrived in the U.S. Her mother was pregnant with her while aboard the ship that brought them from England. The two survivors of the Holocaust immigrated first to New York, then to Dallas when Shapiro was 10.
A lifetime later, Shapiro is immediate past chair of the Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance, gratified and excited for the September opening of the new home of the museum her father helped found.
“The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum will be a showplace that no one could have dreamed of,” she said. “Started in the basement of the JCC, now the world sees us, learns from us and is affected by us. I’m sure my father and all who started it are very proud.”
Shapiro and her husband Howard, whom she met at UT and married 50 years ago, are the parents of Staci (Dr. Paul) Rubin, Todd (Jori) Shapiro and Lisa (Rabbi Brian) Strauss. They are grandparents of 12: Brody, Eli, Natalie, Sam and Sophie Rubin, Ella, Harper, Olivia and Zach Shapiro, and Ari, Joshua and Noa Strauss.
Serving on the Plano City Council, then as the city’s mayor, Shapiro was president of the Texas Municipal League before her 19-year career as Texas State Senator — first elected against a 13-year incumbent.
“When running for office you think you know it all. Then you go to Austin, the session begins, and it’s like trying to take a sip of water out of a fire hydrant. I was constantly learning, but it was the most amazing process,” said Shapiro. “The value, then and now, of the enormity of my responsibilities, lay on my shoulders, so I’ve always done my homework and really and truly enjoyed it.”
Among the results of her service Shapiro feels most proud of are the series of bills known as Ashley’s Laws, which protect against, adjudicate, and punish sex offenders whose victims are children. “Out of a tragic and terribly sad event came the absolute saving of many lives,” she said.
Shapiro started out as a high school teacher at Richardson High School, and education has never left her heart. As a member of the Advisory Council on Education Reform Initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute, and partner and public policy consultant with Shapiro Linn Strategic Consulting, children’s futures remains her priority.
“Texas is a great state and it needs a great education system,” she said this winter, working in Austin with the “best legislature in 25 years” to bring billions of dollars to public education, and she’s positive about the future. “We’ll always need new and innovative ways to teach. It must be a value and be valued.”
Shapiro is former president and founder of the Collin County Junior League and the Collin County Information & Referral Center, and has served on many boards including: AT&T Performing Arts Center, Collin County Business Alliance, COMMIT! Dallas, Communities Foundation of Texas, Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Educate Texas, Southwestern Medical Foundation, TexProtects: The Texas Association for the Protection of Children, Texans for Education Reform and the University of Texas at Austin Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life.
Raised at Congregation Shearith Israel, Shapiro and her family are founding supporters of Chabad of Plano/Collin County, now also longtime members of Congregation Anshai Torah. Last year, the Shapiros, who have both traveled on Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas missions to Israel, were invited to the dedication of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.
“There’s so much we know, and so much to learn about Florence, and we’re honored for her visit,” said Weinfeld, who is soon to turn 93, and will interview Frisco RoughRiders President and General Manager Andy Milovich (June 26), Dallas Morning News journalist Michael Granberry (July 3), journalist and author Nancy Churnin (July 10) and Bruce Eisen, whose career experience includes CPA, Collin College professor and Jewish community professional (July 17).
“Florence is a great daughter, mother, grandmother, wife. She’s a great everything and a wonderful person,” said her proud mother Ann. “She’s everything a person could want.”
Expect a kvell factor of 110 percent to fill The Legacy, a parent/teacher conference like no other.
By Deb Silverthorn