A tireless champion for the rights of workers and advocate for social justice, Dorothy Jones Shields ’57 was a remarkable Trinity Woman whose life exemplified our most important values of faith, service, action for justice, honor and integrity. Since Dorothy’s death last week, I have been reflecting on the countless ways in which her life bore witness to her education both at Trinity as well as Notre Dame Academy on K Street.
I first met Dorothy, briefly, when she was Trinity’s director of public relations during my student days. Little did I realize then the ways she would influence my life and contribute to the great transformation of Trinity! When Dorothy left her position at Trinity in 1972, she joined the Education Department of the AFL-CIO, and rose through the ranks to become the Director of Education, the highest-ranking woman in the union at that time.
She became well known nationally and internationally for her advocacy for the rights of workers and her contributions to worker education. She served on the board of trustees of the George Meany Center for Labor Studies in Silver Spring, the board of the Joint Council for Economic Education, and spent time abroad working with the International Labor Council in Geneva, Switzerland. She did all of this while managing a delightful family (children Mary and Paul, her late husband Henry) and working in service to her parish.
Dorothy was deeply devoted to Trinity as well. I met her again early in the 1990’s when she joined our Board of Trustees. I admired her keen insight into the forces of change that were well underway in those heady, difficult days. She quickly took me under wing, realizing that this then-very young president needed some strong tutoring in dealing effectively with many constituencies, and particularly in building bridges to our many generations of Trinity alumnae. She accompanied me to numerous meetings and never hesitated to give me frank and candid feedback on how I could do better!
Even as she offered me strong and direct advice, she also exerted courageous leadership in the face of some criticism we encountered in those days as Trinity was undergoing significant transformation. As a former commuter student, herself — a “day-hop” in the parlance of 1957 — she was president of the Washington Club which was the organization within the Student Association that represented commuter students in those days. (She’s second from the right in the line-up of SGA ’57 officers, below.) She understood quite well that as Trinity welcomed more and more local students, the transformation of the college in programs and services was profound, and she was a strong advocate for the necessary changes.
Dorothy was an ardent advocate for women’s education, for racial equality, for equity regardless of social class. In her role as vice chair of our board, she was unyielding in her conviction that Trinity’s transformation reflected the best of our Catholic tradition and commitment to the Gospel principles of social justice. She was proud of Trinity’s evolution into a university serving a broad range of educational needs in the District of Columbia and Washington region.
Dorothy’s amazing work as a Trinity trustee at a crucial time stands out as an example of the fact that a great institution is the result of great teamwork among many talented people, their clear and courageous commitment to mission, and deeply intuitive skills in managing all of the myriad interests among devoted constituencies. Dorothy was one of the Trinity leaders who contributed so much at just the right time, helping Trinity to work through change and transformation successfully.
We remember her fondly and with great thanks institutionally, and for me, the memory of her steadfast friendship — and those long nights of tutoring over her dinner table in Cheverly! — are enduring.