State of the Union newsletter logo

In Honor of Shirley Bird Perry

This past fall, the University community gathered to honor and celebrate the life of a Union legend, Shirley Bird Perry.

photo of SBP ballroom
Naming ceremony of the Shirley Bird Perry Ballroom in the Texas Union

In the 80-year existence of a student union at The University of Texas, no name looms larger than that of Shirley Bird Perry. From her involvement as an undergraduate student through her service as Director of the Texas Union, no single individual has had as much of an impact on the college union movement on our campus as she did. Her groundbreaking achievements also extended to the international community of college unions when she served as the first woman president of our national organization, the Association of College Unions International.

Of equal or greater value perhaps, was her role as a teacher and mentor to generations of students, especially student leaders, here on the Forty Acres. Through periods of unrest and challenges on campuses from the mid-sixties through the mid-seventies, Shirley Bird’s calm hand and positive attitude provided great support to student leaders as they sought answers to tough questions.

In 1979 she was appointed assistant to the president and coordinator of the University’s Centennial Observance, which culminated in 1983. She went on to serve as vice president for development and university relations. In 1992 she joined The University of Texas System as vice chancellor for development and external relations. In 2004 she returned to the UT campus as senior vice president, overseeing various special projects and working with the Center for American History to create a better historical record of the university. At the time of her death she was coordinating an extensive oral history project, comprising interviews with alumni, former administrators and retired faculty.

To even the person who met her casually, Shirley Bird was defined by her life- long love affair with The University of Texas and what it meant to be a Texan. Shirley Bird’s devotion and loyalty to her University inspired and impressed all who came in contact with her.

It was to celebrate this remarkable woman, that present and past members of the University community gathered on October 24 to experience the naming ceremony of the Shirley Bird Perry Ballroom in the Texas Union. The event began with words from President Powers, finished with the singing of the Eyes of Texas accompanied by the Longhorn Band, and stood as a testament to Shirley Bird’s legacy living on at the Texas Union both in spirit and in name.


Newsletter Edition: 
January 2014