Professor of Political Science Bill Shapiro retires after more than 40 years at Oxford

Daniel Christian •

Bill Shapiro

Bill Shapiro, a beloved Political Science professor and staple of Oxford College for more than 40 years, retired in May.

After more than 40 years of teaching at Oxford College, Political Science Professor Bill Shapiro retired at the end of the 2022 spring semester.

Over his many years at Oxford, Shapiro was recognized a number of times for his excellence and leadership in the classroom and beyond. These recognitions include the Fleming Award (1987), the Williams Award (2007), and the Mizell Award (2008).

“Bill has focused his efforts at Oxford on maintaining rigorous teaching standards and on insisting that faculty governance is central to a healthy institution,” said Ken Anderson, Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Philosophy. “He also was instrumental in creating the Faculty Development Program back when no money was dedicated to conference travel or research funds.”

Anderson recalls a spirited debate with Shapiro about Plato’s Republic in a faculty seminar many years ago. Immediately after, he was nervous about having clashed with such a respected professor, but Shapiro remarked how much he enjoyed their honest exchange.

“When he disagrees with you, he will let you know it and will tell you why,” Anderson said. “But he also maintains the deepest respect for his colleagues and Oxford College, the institution we all serve. Bill, we will miss you.” 

Students appreciated his wide range of expertise, which, as Anderson notes, ranged from “Neitzsche’s eternal recurrence to the political implications of Harry Potter.” He regularly taught extra courses on topics like Three World Problems, Israeli-Palestinian Politics, and the Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Samantha Flaugher 17Ox 19C had Shapiro as a professor, and she fondly recalls the time and care he put into her academic wellbeing. When she was struggling in a course, he was quick to reach out and offer help.

“The fact that there was someone who was actually watching out for me and cared enough to check on me meant the world,” she said. “That was the moment that I realized I’d made the right choice in coming to Oxford, because these are the kind of people who teach us here. I rededicated myself to my school work after [he reached out] because I realized I needed to make the most of this place. The support and care that the professors gave to us made this place so impactful for me."

Oxford’s Advancement and Alumni Engagement team hosted a retirement celebration for the beloved professor in April. The event drew a crowd of about 100, including faculty, staff, alumni, family, and friends, to see Shapiro presented with two farewell gifts: the Oxford College Alumni Board 2022 Outstanding Teacher Award and a Proclamation from the Oxford Board of Counselors recognizing him for his excellent teaching and his many years of service to Oxford, beginning in 1979. 

Tammy Camfield 89Ox 91C, Senior Director of Advancement and Alumni Engagement, shared her appreciation of Shapiro for all he has done for alumni and the rest of the campus community. “Bill was not only a great teacher, but a mentor and friend to so many people. He will be dearly missed,” she said.

In 2017, The William and Anne Munroe Shapiro Endowment was created to provide academic materials and books to Oxford students. The endowment has already met its initial goal of raising $50,000 and now seeks to raise an additional $50,000 to reach $100,000, which would provide an endowed scholarship for an Oxford student each year in perpetuity. For more information or to contribute, click here

The Oxford class of 2022 honored Shapiro as well, pledging to name this year’s class gift in his honor.

While looking ahead to the joys of retirement, Shapiro offered a final reflection on his time at Oxford, noting that he was grateful to be able to spend so many years on a campus with such “good books and good people.”

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