Mourning Shirley Passow
Published in Messages
To the TC Community:
It is with great sadness that Teachers Colleges notes the passing of Shirley S. Passow, a long-time friend and supporter of the College and an active advocate for education itself.
While she neither attended nor taught at Teachers College, Shirley Passow had deep roots with the TC community both as the wife of the late A. Harry Passow, TC’s great scholar of gifted education and urban education, and as the mother of two TC graduates – Michael Passow (MA, ’71, Ed.D., ‘74), and Deborah Passow Yaffe (MS, ‘74).
Shirley Passow attended Albany State College for Teachers. She briefly taught English in New York’s Erie County and subsequently embarked on two new careers relatively late in life – first as an urban planner working for New York City, and then as an attorney who rose to become Deputy Attorney General of the state of New Jersey.
She deeply shared her husband’s belief that, as she put it, “everybody was entitled to the most important thing this country could give its citizens – a decent education.” She generously supported TC’s Annual Fund and a scholarship fund established in Harry Passow’s honor. With Michael Passow, who served four terms on the College’s Alumni Council, she was also a member of TC’s Grace Dodge Society.
The Passows also shared a lifelong concern for improving race relations in the United States. As an undergraduate, Shirley Passow organized a conference keynoted by Eleanor Roosevelt and John W. Davis, President of West Virginia State, then an all-black college, who became a lifelong friend. Later, when the Passows lived in Englewood, New Jersey, Harry Passow devoted his presidency of the local school board to halting “white flight” from the town. Michael Passow now teaches in the Englewood schools. At the height of the violence in New York’s Crown Heights neighborhood during the 1980s, the Passows also helped found Common Ground, a group of 30 or so Englewood couples, black and white, who met regularly for potluck suppers. Shirley Passow said their goal was to rekindle the alliance between blacks and Jews that existed during the Civil Rights era, and more broadly, “simply to become glad to be together.”
Harry Passow taught at TC under four different presidents – Hollis Caswell, John Fischer, Lawrence Cremin and Michael Timpane – and after his retirement he received TC’s Medal for Distinguished Service. During a recent interview for TC’s Oral History project, Shirley Passow said of TC: “It was a warm and happy place for all those years, and I can’t say goodbye.”
For those of us at Teachers College who were fortunate enough to know Shirley Passow, the feeling was mutual, which is why we will celebrate her life and keep her in our hearts.
Donations in memory of Shirley Passow may be made to the A. Harry Passow Fellowship Fund at Teachers College.
Susan H. Fuhrman
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