UT vice president worked 50 years, embodied ideals of campus service

Huma Munir

UT Senior Vice President and alumna Shirley Bird Perry died Wednesday after fighting cancer for years, said President William Powers Jr.

Perry served the University as vice chancellor for development and vice chancellor of external relations for 40 years before becoming senior vice president in 2004.

“She has been on campus for 50 years,” Powers said. “Generation after generation saw Shirley and really saw her as the embodiment of what it means to be a Longhorn.” 

As a senior vice president, Perry was responsible for overseeing the president’s fund-raising efforts, as well as reaching out to potential donors, Powers said. She reported directly to Powers and her biggest achievement was strengthening ties between graduate students and the University, he said.

She was also instrumental in raising money for the Harrington Fellows Program, which supports students pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees, Powers said.

Perry also worked with former UT presidents Peter T. Flawn and William H. Cunningham. Powers said he knew Perry for 25 years before he became president, and they worked closely together. 

“She was the glue that pulled many events together,” he said. “If there was a challenge, her view was always to just roll up the sleeves and [say] ‘let’s do it’.”

In the 1950s, when Perry was a student at the University, she was named the “Most Outstanding Woman Student” by the Dads’ Association — now known as the Parents’ Association — for demonstrating exceptional leadership skills, according to the UT website. 

“She was a very positive force around the University,” Powers said.