Ruth Shapiro, 95, helped transform Brandeis

She was committed to supporting underserved communities and people in need

Ruth and Carl Shapiro

Ruth Shapiro, whose philanthropic partnership with her husband, Carl, benefited Brandeis for more than a half-century and helped transform the university into a leader in American higher education, died on Sunday surrounded by her family. She was 95.

The Shapiro name is deeply connected with Brandeis and graces three of the newest and most-used buildings on campus – the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Admissions Center, completed in October 2009; the Carl J. Shapiro Science Center, completed summer 2009; and the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Campus Center, completed September 2002. The Shapiros, who were married for 73 years, made their first gift – of $10 – to Brandeis in 1950.

“On this sad day when we mourn the passing of Ruth Shapiro, we also celebrate a life dedicated to helping others,” Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence said. “Carl and Ruth Shapiro have been instrumental in helping Brandeis become the institution that our founders envisioned in 1948. May her memory ever be a blessing.”

Ruth, a resident of Boston and Palm Beach, Fla., served as a fellow of the university for many years. She was a 1937 graduate of Wellesley College, where she majored in music, a lifelong passion. She committed herself to supporting underserved communities and programs, and to helping those in need.

Carl, who is 99, was a Brandeis trustee from 1979-88 and has served as a trustee emeritus since. In January 2003, Brandeis presented him with an honorary degree for his “unshakable commitment to making the world a better place.”

At Brandeis, the Shapiros also established the Carl Shapiro Chair in International Finance, the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Center for Library Technology and Journals and the Zinner Forum at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

“Ruth and Carl were an amazing team, and they believed in the unique mission of Brandeis and its special place among American universities,” said Nancy Winship, P ’10, P ’12, senior vice president of institutional advancement, who worked closely with the Shapiros for two decades. “Ruth was an elegant woman who was the quiet strength of the family. She was deeply knowledgeable about the arts and music. We will all miss her.”

The Shapiros have three daughters, Rhonda Zinner, Ellen Jaffe and Linda Waintrup, all of whom have been involved with Brandeis through the years. Rhonda serves on the Brandeis Board of Trustees.

In addition to its support of Brandeis, the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation has given generously to a number of educational, medical and cultural organizations in both Boston and Palm Beach. In Boston, the Shapiros have supported Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Medical Center, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Institute for Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science, Children’s Museum and WGBH. In Florida, they have supported the Norton Museum of Arts, Palm Beach Opera and Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.

In addition to her husband and daughters, Ruth leaves three sons-in-law, Michael Zinner, Robert Jaffe and Daniel Waintrup; seven grandchildren, Jennifer, Jonathan, Steven, Michael, Andrew, Samantha and Kimberly; six great grandchildren; and her brother, Roger. She was predeceased by her sister, Audrey.

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