It was only after retiring from her career as a radiologist and medical executive that Shelley Weiner Sheinkopf ’68 recognized the full impact of her Mount Holyoke education.
“Retirement offered a chance to reflect,” said Shelley. “Looking back, I saw a deeply introverted young woman who learned to raise her hand and not be intimidated if her answer was wrong. I’d never really appreciated how and when that self-confidence developed until my retirement.”
Shelley has a new appreciation for how that trust in herself and her abilities was life changing. As a first-year medical student, she joined conversations when she thought lab partners made errors. Then, as a young resident, she comfortably entered group discussions with co-residents and teachers. Along the way, she discovered how much she enjoyed helping young physicians grow into well-trained professionals. Shelley spent nine years in academic radiology before moving to private practice. Throughout her career, she continued mentoring medical students.
Retirement also offered Shelley time to think about her legacy. As her fiftieth Reunion approached, Shelley proposed a gift to help the Art Museum expand its collection of Judaica. The Art Museum enthusiastically embraced her vision. One of the first purchases made possible by Shelley’s gift was a ketubah — a Jewish marriage contract — created with ink, gouache and shell gold on vellum in Italy in 1823. The ketubah and several subsequent acquisitions were featured in “Celebrating Sacred Moments,” a 2020 virtual exhibition curated by students.
“I discovered art history as a sophomore. During my campus years, there was no Judaica on view in the Art Museum and none was discussed in any of my classes. I’m delighted to be able to introduce students to a beautiful tradition and to assist the museum in expanding its collection,” said Shelley.
Working with the College, Shelley endowed a fund to support the museum’s future acquisitions of Judaica. A planned gift through Shelley’s estate will eventually fund a professorship for the teaching, development and enhancement of course offerings through a Jewish lens.
Most recently, Shelley’s focus has been supporting the College’s efforts to make Mount Holyoke affordable for all students. This institutional priority resonates deeply with her. When Shelley’s father died unexpectedly during her junior year of high school, financial assistance became a necessity. The College’s generous support — which was renewed every year — allowed her to graduate from Mount Holyoke.
“Mount Holyoke stood by me,” said Shelley. “I want current students to know that the College is committed to them as well — and that includes the many, many alums whose generous gifts are designated for financial aid.”
Shelley, who was appointed to the Mount Holyoke Board of Trustees in July, is now educating herself about the College’s initiatives to prepare students for a fast-changing future. A liberal arts education, she believes, remains the best foundation for a range of careers.
Gifts from alums, she added, “ensure that Mount Holyoke can continue to innovate and modify its curriculum in a changing world.”
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