A Legacy in Play

Barbara Shields is creating a legacy that will light a path for hundreds of Eastern Eagles for many years to come.

Shields, an Eastern alumna who is beloved for her inspiring Eastern story and generosity toward students, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a $1 million planned gift to provide scholarships.

During a recent ceremony in the Walter and Myrtle Powers Reading Room at Hargreaves Hall, EWU administrators, faculty and staff gathered to thank Shields and her husband, Walter, for their amazing support.

Shields, who is known for her love of Eagle football, allocated half of the estate gift to help student-athletes who play Eastern football. The other half of the funds will support students pursuing communication studies degrees.

Interim President David May thanked Shields for the generous support, while recognizing the impact she already made through prior gifts that established the Barbara R. Shields Graduate Fellowship Endowment, Barbara R. Shields Undergraduate Scholarship and the Barbara R. and Walter Shields Football Scholarship

Since their inception, in 2008, the endowed scholarship funds have provided vital assistance for 50 students as they worked hard to earn their degrees.

Lynn Hickey, associate VP and director of athletics, called Shields “a tremendous example for the rest of us” and Peter Shields, chair of the Communications Studies Department, offered heartfelt thanks for Shields’ impactful gift.

Head Coach Aaron Best presented Shields with a bouquet of flowers and vowed to create a special play in her honor.

Best explained that about 35% of the student-athletes playing Eagle football are the first in their families to attend college. There is far more to these hardworking students, he explained, than what people see on the field. Receiving an athletics scholarship to help pay for college is life-changing.

“It’s about what they do with the opportunity,” Best said.

Best made good on his promise to create a play in Shields’ honor. During the Nov. 20 game against Portland State, Best deployed the top-secret play dubbed “The Shields.” Not surprisingly, Eastern had a 42-28 victory over Portland State.

Shields is an inspiration above and beyond her support of Eastern’s students. At a time when many people plan for retirement, Shields, who had worked for 35 years at Pacific Northwest Bell, took the telecommunications company up on its tuition reimbursement program and pursued her bachelor’s degree from EWU.

In 1992, at the age of 62, Shields realized her longtime dream and graduated from EWU with a bachelor’s degree in general studies.

Shields retired from the phone company after 35 years of service. Retirement didn’t mean rest and relaxation for this newfound college graduate, who immediately put her skills to work volunteering in the community.

Over the years, Shields has given her time to support Bloomsday, Coats for Kids, Infant Hearing Assessment Program, Los Angeles Summer Olympics, Interlake School in Medical Lake, Spokane Guilds’ School, Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, Ronald McDonald House, Adopt a Highway, Earth Day Cleanup, Mission Community Outreach Center and other worthy nonprofits and projects.

Giving hardworking students a hand up has become a way of life for Shields whose generous estate gift will make a difference for generations of Eastern students.