Evelyn Shapiro, LL.D., June 1, 2000

Evelyn Shapiro
B.A., M.A.(McGill)

By awarding the honorary Doctor of Laws degree to Professor Evelyn Shapiro, the University of Manitoba recognizes a woman of distinction, whose academic scholarship and community service have made a major impact on the University, the province, and indeed the wider world. It is a rare individual who can combine the two in one lifetime; it is rarer still to find one who has excelled in both. Evelyn Shapiro is an internationally renowned researcher in the field of aging and health. In her public life, she is credited with having been the architect of the continuing care program in Manitoba. It is a career that manages to bridge academe and government, or as some would call it, the "ivory tower" and the "real world". The two solitudes are often at odds, and not infrequently choose to misunderstand one another. Her intimate knowledge of, and the respect she receives from, both worlds, enables her to integrate their best features to advance the cause of promoting the health and well-being of all citizens.

Born in 1926 in Lithuania, Evelyn Shapiro was educated in Montreal, receiving the BA in 1946 and the MA in 1947, both from McGill University. [She may well have been one of the last students of Stephen Leacock in Political Science and Economics, which may or may not have been responsible for her sense of humour]. Her academic career began in 1972 when she was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, the predecessor of the Department of Community Health Sciences, in the University of Manitoba, eventually becoming full Professor in 1990. In 1998 she was appointed a "Senior Scholar", which in our University is a license for the Department to exploit her intellect without having to pay for it. She has published extensively on the determinants of health among the elderly, the predictors of their use of health care services, and the impact of social policy on community and long-term institutional care. She is a founding member of the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy and Evaluation and has a long association with the Manitoba Longitudinal Study on Aging. Her prolific pen has resulted in at least 8 research monographs, 13 book chapters, and over 50 articles in refereed journals. This can only be an estimate, as it is actually difficult to keep track of her still considerable productivity.

In her "other life", she has served the people of Manitoba for many years in different capacities. From 1969-1972 she was executive director of the Age and Opportunity Centre in Winnipeg. Between 1974 and 1976 she was Director of Continuing Care in the Department of Health and Social Development of Manitoba. It was during her tenure there that Manitoba's much acclaimed and copied continuing care program was implemented. She served many years on the Manitoba Health Services Commission, as a member from 1972-1977, and as chairperson from 1982-1988. The MHSC was the provincial agency responsible for the administration of hospital and medical care insurance. As chairperson she was in a position to influence health policy for the province. The MHSC led the country in developing its health care utilization database into a powerful research tool which has been responsible for many significant health reforms in the province. From 1988 to 1990 she was a senior policy advisor to the Minister of Health of Manitoba.

Professor Shapiro has received many awards both for her academic contributions and community service. The Government of Canada awarded her the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Confederation in 1992. She was honoured by the Deer Lodge Foundation in 1995 in recognition of her outstanding community service and was appointed an Honorary Member by the Canadian Home Care Association that same year. More recently, she received the Distinguished Member Award by the Canadian Association on Gerontology in 1999.

She is in constant demand to serve on national expert committees. During 1998-99 she was chair of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation's peer review panel. She is currently a member of the Department of Veteran's Affairs Gerontological Advisory Committee and serves on the National Council on Ethics in Human Research. She has been a consultant to the National Health Coalition, Health Canada's Home Care Development Group, and the Health Services Restructuring Commission of Ontario, among others.

Evelyn Shapiro has been married to Dr. Ernest Shapiro for 53 years. They have two sons and a granddaughter who will be entering university this fall. It is not clear if the concept of "free time" applies to her, since her pace and productivity puts many full-time academics to shame. However, we are told that she, along with her husband, is a passionate devotee and patron of the visual arts, chamber music, opera and the theatre.

It is possible to be community-oriented in academic research, and be academically rigorous in public service. Evelyn Shapiro has shown us how to achieve this. The honorary degree is a small token of the University's admiration and respect for her lifetime of contributions to the University and the community.