UCLA Medal Presentation to Ralph & Shirley Shapiro


Good evening, my friends. And welcome!

Carol and I are so happy to have you all here for the awarding of this much-deserved UCLA Medal to our good friends Ralph and Shirley Shapiro.

As educators, we work hard to inspire our students to be curious, conscientious and committed to the well-being of our community.

We hope that we can inspire them, as alumni, to become active and engaged citizens, problem solvers and leaders who understand that our own well-being is fundamentally linked to the well-being of everyone else.

Both Shirley and Ralph, time and time again, have embodied and modeled that principle.

When we talk about service as a core mission of UCLA — alongside research and education — two of the names that always come to my mind are Ralph and Shirley Shapiro.

They met at UCLA, formed a beautiful partnership here and have both made UCLA very proud. My hope is that UCLA will continue to graduate students who share their values and will extend their legacy.

In 1953, the year that Ralph earned his UCLA undergrad degree, President Dwight Eisenhower, in his first inaugural address, told the nation that “a people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

As a young couple, Ralph and Shirley took to heart the powerful lesson that public service is every bit as important as private gain. That ethic has guided their extraordinary lives ever since.

Building on Shirley’s degree in education and Ralph’s in business and law, they both have searched for ways to make a difference on the issues that matter: From civil rights for Mexican Americans to education for those with Autism.

The range of organizations and causes they have supported are as diverse as the multicultural Boyle Heights where Ralph grew up:

Inner City Law Center. Scripps Research Institute. Asian Americans Advancing Justice. The National Jewish Medical and Research Center. The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. The Los Angeles Library. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Just to name a few.

Always striving to do more, they have made giving back a family affair, passing onto their children the values of public service and the common good.

Their Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation — with Ralph as chairman, their son Peter as president, and daughter Alison as vice president — has been an important force for good in civic life, health care, environmental preservation and more.

Ralph and Shirley have remained extraordinarily committed to their alma matter as well.

As one colleague put it, they have “covered the campus with their love,” supporting   students and faculty throughout campus by providing much needed scholarships and creating a record 20 endowed chairs.

Every service organization and university relies on generosity. But organizations also need those who get personally involved and bring their passion and commitment to the hard work at hand.

As generous as the Shapiros are with financial support, they have been equally generous with their time and counsel.

They have served on the boards of UCLA’S Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, the School of the Arts and Architecture, the Centennial Campaign Cabinet, the law school’s Board of Advisors, Women and Philanthropy, the Fowler Museum, and UCLA Health System, among many others. And they have been great supporters of UCLA’s efforts to serve the needs of people with disabilities.

Shirley and Ralph have taken a special interest in supporting families wrestling with the challenges of Cerebral Palsy, helping forge an alliance between the Cerebral Palsy Foundation — which conducts research — and United Cerebral Palsy Los Angeles — which provides care and advocacy.

Again, they have invested their hearts into this cause, personally giving their time and care to help educate and support parents and share their experiences of what it’s like to be parents of someone with cerebral palsy.

When they realized that other families were in need of specialized transportation, the Shapiros bought a van for families to use when visiting loved ones at the United Cerebral Palsy Association’s residential care facilities.

Through it all, Ralph and Shirley’s dedication to UCLA and the broader community are surpassed only by their devotion to their children and to each other, having just celebrated 60 years of marriage (as if your story were not already inspiring enough)!

So, it is with sincere gratitude and admiration that I invite Shirley and Ralph up to the stage to receive the UCLA Medal.

Before I present you with the Medal, I’d like everyone to hear this citation, which reads:


Your deep commitment to higher education and public service has benefitted UCLA, Los Angeles and the nation. Your outstanding dedication to UCLA has been repeatedly demonstrated by endowing many faculty chairs, providing scholarships and serving on numerous boards around campus, helping to guide UCLA’s efforts in law, economics, health, environmental sustainability, cultural preservation, Japanese studies, women in philanthropy and more. Your commitment to the public good is embodied by the Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation, which has supported varied fields including education, medicine, the arts, the environment and the welfare of children. You have brought notable attention to those with special needs and developmental disabilities and have been a source of guidance and support to families managing the challenges of cerebral palsy. You both exemplify a commitment to education, compassion for others and a concern for the community that are making lives better today — and will continue to do so in the future. In so doing, you represent the best of UCLA’s values. In gratitude for your wide-ranging service, we proudly bestow upon you the UCLA Medal. Given at UCLA this second day of April, two thousand and nineteen.