Obituary: Barbara K. Shore / Pitt professor defended the most vulnerable

Nov. 26, 1920 - Oct. 23, 2013

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Back in the 1980s, then Allegheny County Commissioner Tom Foerster was under fire for the state of county services intended to protect children vulnerable to abuse in their home.

He knew he needed a blue ribbon commission, recalled a top aide. But the late commissioner also knew it had to be led by someone who would keep the emotions and disparate interests on that panel from derailing any real possibility of change.

So he turned to a passionate social worker and accomplished academic who had credibility not just at the University of Pittsburgh, where she was a professor, but also among the varied community leaders whose trust she had gained through her part in myriad campaigns for social justice.

Barbara K. Shore did what she had a knack for doing, said Bob Nelkin, now president of the United Way of Allegheny County.

"She was able to forge consensus and shape significant recommendations for reform, without tearing apart all the relationships that would be needed to bring it about," he said.

Ms. Shore died in her sleep Wednesday in an assisted-living facility in Tucson, Ariz. She was 92.

The reforms she moved forward -- among them personnel changes, improved training and closure of a shelter that had become a warehouse -- are just a few of the ways she left her mark on the broader community, those who knew her say.

Ms. Shore, an author and distinguished service professor in Pitt's School of Social Work, had a resume heavy with academic accomplishment. But she also is remembered for her deep commitment to varied causes, from civil rights and women's equality to senior citizen health and protection of those most vulnerable in society.

As word spread Friday of her passing, some had a hard time naming any single cause she was most passionate about because there were so many.

"Where it came from I don't know," said Morton "Moe" Coleman, 81, professor emeritus and founding director of Pitt's Institute of Politics. "It was hugely embedded into her psyche. She saw a better world. She was an optimist and she was going to work like hell to see it come about.

"I can see her marching. She was a great marcher for civil liberties and civil rights, and in areas where it was risky" during periods of deep racial discord, he said.

She was what Tracy Soska, assistant professor and chair of community organization and social administration in Pitt's School of Social Work, described as "a social worker's social worker." He remembered her calls late into the night with ideas to motivate.

"She was one of those fires we thought would never die," he said. "I can't say how many people she mentored, how many students, how many professionals. She was beloved," he said.

Her name is memorialized at Freedom Corner on Centre Avenue. "Her impact was everywhere," said her daughter, Deborah Shore.

Ms. Shore was born in 1920 and grew up in Squirrel Hill with her three siblings. She graduated from Carnegie Mellon University summa cum laude in 1942 with a degree in social work. A year later, she received a master's in that discipline from Pitt.

While still a graduate student, she married her husband of 58 years, the late Jack Shore. She followed him to Chicago, where he enrolled in graduate chemistry studies at the University of Chicago, her family said.

The couple later spent time in Rochester, N.Y., and Buffalo, N.Y., starting a family before returning to Pittsburgh in 1950 and settling in Stanton Heights.

While living in Chicago, she helped to resettle youthful Holocaust survivors as an employee of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

During the 1950s and 1960s, she was a stay-at-home mother, her family said. A violinist and pianist, she also was prominent during that period in Hadassah, Sunnyside PTA, the Stanton Heights Recreation Program and the Irene Kaufman Center, and her family said she also worked weekends for Traveler's Aid Society.

In 1972, she received a doctoral degree in social work from Pitt and a second master's degree there, this one in public health. She began her teaching career at Pitt that same year. In the decades that followed, she assumed prominent roles on campus and nationally within her chosen field as a co-author of two books.

She served three terms as president of the University Senate. The Shore-Tobias Award for Anti-Discrimination Service to Pitt, created by the university Senate in 2010, honors her work and that of Richard Tobias to end discrimination at the university.

Ms. Shore is survived by daughters Erika Shore of Berkeley, Calif.; Deborah Shore of Washington, D.C., and Benita Shore Dombrowski of Tucson; a son, David Shore of Durham, N.C.; a sister, Joan Shames of Shadyside; 11 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be at 1 p.m. Sunday in Rodef Shalom Temple at 4905 Fifth Ave. in Shadyside with a funeral at 2 p.m. Burial will be in Ohav Shalom Cemetery, Shaler.

Bill Schackner:, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.

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