A Guide to the Shirley Bird Perry Papers, 1883-2011 (bulk 1958-2011)
Shirley Ann Bird, known throughout her life as "Shirley Bird", was born near Stockdale, Texas to Homer and Laura Stevenson Bird in 1936. When Shirley Bird began her studies at the University of Texas in 1954, her first class had 240 students. She had graduated high school in a class of 21, and this gave her a lifelong sympathy for students who came to UT from small towns. During college, Shirley Bird was active in student organizations, including the Orange Jackets, the Texas Union Board of Directors, and the Mortar Board. The Dads' Association (now known as the Parents' Association) of UT named her the "Most Outstanding Woman Student" during her senior year of college.
Upon earning her education degree from UT in 1958, Shirley Bird joined the Texas Union staff as program director. Two years later, after a year teaching junior high in California, she returned to this position at the Union. She married Sam Perry, an Austin lawyer and fellow UT graduate, in 1963. Some of her accomplishments during the time she worked for the Union include coordinating appearances by distinguished speakers such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and Marianne Moore. During this period Shirley Bird also earned a master’s degree in educational psychology from UT (1967), served as the first woman vice president and president of the Association of College Unions - International, and was appointed director of the Texas Union in 1972.
In 1980 UT President Peter Flawn appointed Shirley Bird to lead the University's Centennial campaign and celebrations of 1983, in addition to naming her Vice President of Development and University Relations. Shirley Bird served in that position under UT President William H. Cunningham as well. In 1992, President Cunningham took Shirley Bird with him when he was appointed Chancellor of the University of Texas System to serve as Vice Chancellor for Development and External Relations. She retired from the UT System in 2004 and was welcomed back to the UT Austin campus as a Senior Vice President by UT President Larry Faulkner.
In addition to numerous university-related committees, Shirley Bird Perry served on the Public Affairs Committee of the Association of American Universities; the Executive Committee of the University Relations division of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC); and on a special Task Force on State Relations coordinated by NASULGC and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. She served as an Advisory Director of JPMorgan Chase Bank in Austin and on the boards of directors of Southwestern Public Service Company and Lomas and Nettleton Mortgage Investors.
Shirley Bird Perry was the recipient of countless awards and recognitions; most notable among them include the Top Hand Award in 1984 from the Texas Exes, an organization of which she was a life member; the Parents' Association's Award of Distinction in 1992; being named a Woman of Power by the Austin Business Journal in 2003; and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Texas Exes in 2005. The Texas Union named a special student recognition award in her honor, the Shirley Bird Perry Leadership Award. In 2011, President William Powers awarded Shirley Bird the university's highest honor, the Presidential Citation, and he and the other UT presidents for whom she had worked established the "Shirley Bird Perry Endowment Fund for University History" in her honor. Furthermore, she has proven the depth of her knowledge of and dedication to UT by preserving University history through the UT Oral History Project with the Briscoe Center for American History. The goals of this project have been to record the memories and achievements of the institution's leaders, nearly all of whom she worked with in her nearly five decades at UT.
After several years of battling cancer, Shirley Bird Perry died on May 4, 2011, at the age of 74.
The Shirley Bird Perry Papers, 1883-2011 (bulk 1958-2011), contain notes, reports, working files, correspondence, memoranda, publications and printed material, newspapers and newspaper clippings, research material, photographs, audio and video cassettes, computer disks, awards and recognitions, artifacts, and books. The papers document the nearly five decades that Shirley Bird Perry worked tirelessly for the administration of the University of Texas at Austin and for countless committees and organizations. The papers additionally pertain to the University's Centennial celebrations of 1983, 125th anniversary events in 2008, the Class of 1958's 50th reunion, student life and organizations at UT, and the Shirley Bird Perry UT Oral History project.
The papers convey the seemingly limitless energy and ability of Shirley Bird Perry and include a great deal of material from students, colleagues, and friends sending thanks, congratulations, and best wishes on Shirley Bird's many endeavors and recognitions. Additionally, the collection documents Shirley Bird's great organizational, communication, and planning skills and provides a glimpse into an all too rare experience of a woman in multiple positions of power in the mid to late 20th century and early 21st century.
Donor files including names and Social Security Numbers of individual donors are restricted and withheld from public disclosure under the Public Information Act, TGC Sec. 552.1235.
Shirley Bird Perry Papers, 1883-2011 (bulk 1958-2011), Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Jessi Fishman, February 2016.