From Pink Purse to Briefcase


  • From Pink Purse to Briefcase

  • Three Keys to Professionalism

  • Dreamers, Thinkers, Doers

  • Leadership Lessons from Some Unlikely Sources

Dr. Shirley Raines

Dr.  Shirley Raines, the first woman president of the University of Memphis, served for 12 years in the role.  Now, as president emeritus, she is a speaker, consultant and author. With 17 books published for educators, Dr. Raines is currently writing "From Preschool Teacher to University President:  Leadership Insights".  Packed with leadership insights the book will tell the story of growing up on a small cotton farm in West Tennessee, and her career journey from preschool teacher to the first woman president of the University of Memphis, 

From those humble beginnings, she went on to run a large public university, which has been described as managing a small city.  The challenges were great with a half-billion dollar budget, 2,500 employees, 22,000 students, acres of physical plant, a police force, housing and dining industry, and major sports programs. She added a School of Public Health to the academic division and acquired a private school and changed it to a public university branch, the University of Memphis, Lambuth campus. Shirley thrived interacting with thousands of alumni, influential donors, political leaders, brilliant scientists and famous coaches.  

Prior to her years as president, Shirley served on the faculties of universities in six states in administrative posts as department chair, dean and vice chancellor.  She wrote 17 books for educators and had the honor of serving on the selection committee for the National Teacher of the Year.  She was president of an international education association where she served as a United Nations representative to the civil societies organization. Dr. Raines has received awards for her research and teaching has been recognized by universities and professional associations, but none more significant than those from students.

With an innovative spirit, Shirley’s guidance led the university to become one of the top-twenty internships programs in the nation, the largest honors program in the state, and to develop an entrepreneurship program that launched companies started by professors.  From those experiences, she was invited to speak at the White House Conference on University entrepreneurship.

The architecture community recognized Dr. Raines for the campus redesign including the FedEx Institute of Technology, the Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management, the new university center, and the historic renovation of the Law School on the River. She and her leadership team were acknowledgement by city, county and state government for major growth in reputation as a metropolitan research university, increased graduation rates and superior management.

In addition to being the first woman president of the University of Memphis, Shirley served as the “first woman,” for a number of posts, including the first woman chair of Conference-USA and the first woman chair of Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce.  Undaunted by challenges, Shirley was recognized for her work by the Tennessee Economic Council on Women and inducted into the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame, where she was described as “personable, powerful and prepared.”

Based on her wealth of experiences, Dr. Raines is the consummate energizer of leaders and their teams. For seven years, she shared her leadership stories, challenges and pitfalls at Harvard’s Institute for New Presidents and Chancellors. Now, she is in demand to work with non-profits, corporations, foundations and professional associations to inspire, inform and challenge leaders, team members and citizens.

Whether in the board room or from the conference podium, she conveys her leadership stories with humor, dignity and style. 

Shirley is married to Dr. Robert Canady, a former professor, artist and pilot.  They live in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near her son and two grandchildren.