Shack was elected to the Metro-Dade County Commission (now known as the Miami-Dade County Commission) in 1976, 1978 and 1982. After leaving the Commission she became the President and CEO of one of the largest philanthropic organizations in Florida, the Dade Community Foundation (now The Miami Foundation). She retired in 2009.
Ruth earned her Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from Miami-Dade's Barry University in 1970 with a major in English and a minor in Journalism/Communications. In 1975, she received a Master of Arts in Social Science with specialization in Urban Sociology from the University of Colorado. She taught sociology and political science at Florida International University. In 1985 and 1986, she hosted a four-hour talk show on WNWS each Saturday afternoon.
Ruth Shack's career has been rooted in the world of community service. She was elected to her first term as Metro-Dade County Commissioner in 1976, re-elected to a four-year term in 1978, and to a third term in 1982. In her tenure as a Commissioner, she forced the county and its municipalities to consider their historic resources, including the Art Deco District on South Miami Beach. In 1981, she sponsored the County's first historic preservation ordinance.
Her philanthropic activities are international, national, and locally based. She has served as Vice Chair of the Council on Foundations and Chair of its Management Committee, on the Board of the Community Foundations for Youth and the Board of Funders Concerned about AIDS. She is a member of the Bertelsmann Foundations' Transatlantic Community Foundation Network and was Chair of the Communications Network. She was a Founder and former Chair of the Florida Philanthropic Network and Founder-Chair of the Alliance for Human Services.
The Miami Foundation
Ruth Shack became President of the Dade Community Foundation, now known as The Miami Foundation, in 1985. During her esteemed tenure, Ruth spearheaded a campaign to encourage philanthropy and charitable giving by developing a permanent endowment to meet Greater Miami’s emerging charitable needs.
Spurred by her leadership, the Foundation diversified its Board of Trustees, its staff and its grantmaking focus. Determined to better respond to the needs of Miami’s most intractable challenge, Ruth led the charge to focus all grantmaking against the issue of cultural alienation and the need to help people successfully cross ethnic barriers. Empowerment and seed funding for emerging groups, based in the diverse multi cultural communities of Miami-Dade, were the hallmarks of the grantmaking program under her leadership.
On January 27, 2009, Ruth announced that she would step down from her post as President by the end of the year. During her 24 year leadership, Ruth led the organization from its infancy to one of community leader and change-agent.
Today in her honor, The Miami Foundation has established the Ruth and Richard Shack Society recognizing the organization’s most generous philanthropists. In addition, each year The Miami Foundation and Leave a Legacy present the Ruth Shack Leadership Award to one of Miami’s most promising young leaders.
Human Rights Ordinance
- See also Save Our Children.
In 1977, Shack was a member of the Metro Dade County Commission sponsored the amendment to the original Dade County anti-discrimination ordinance and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Later her former friend Anita Bryant led a highly publicized, successful campaign to repeal the ordinance. The campaign was waged based on what was labeled "Christian beliefs regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality and the perceived threat of homosexual recruitment of children and child molestation."
Reinstatement of Ordinance
In 1998, Dade County repealed Bryant's successful campaign of 20 years earlier, and re-enacted an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by a 7 to 6 vote. In 2002, a ballot initiative to repeal the 1998 law, called Amendment 14, was voted down by 56% of the voters.
The Florida statute forbidding adoptions by gays was upheld in 2004 by a federal appellate court, but on November 25, 2008, was struck down by Judge Cindy Lederman. In her opinion, Lederman said the 31-year-old law violates equal protection rights for the children and their prospective gay parents, rejecting the state's arguments that there is "a supposed dark cloud hovering over homes of homosexuals and their children." She said there was no rational basis to prohibit gay parents from adopting, particularly since the state allowed them to act as foster parents. The ruling cleared the way for Martin Gill, 47, and his male partner to adopt two brothers, ages 4 and 8. They had been foster parents to the children since December 2004.
Until recently, Florida was the only state with an outright ban on adoption by gay parents. On November 4, 2008, Arkansas voters approved a measure to ban anyone "co-habitating outside of a valid marriage" from being foster parents or adopting children. Although the law could apply to heterosexual couples, it is believed to have been written to target gay couples.
In 1953, she was married to Richard Shack (15 May 1926 - 2012) and together they had one of the largest modern art collections in South Florida. They have three daughters and five grandchildren.
- Steve Rothaus, "Gay Rights Debate Rages on 30 Years After Miami Dade Challenge", Miami Herald, June 9, 2007