Kathleen N. Straus
Kathleen N. Straus
December 3, 1923
New York City, New York
Kathleen Nagler Straus (born December 3, 1923) is an activist who served as a member of the Michigan State Board of Education from 1993–2016. She has been continuously involved in civic organizations in Michigan since moving to Detroit in 1952 as a young mother. Her many volunteer and professional roles have included the Presidency of the League of Women Voters of Detroit, Executive Director of People and Responsible Organizations (PRO) for Detroit, President of the Michigan State Board of Education, and Secretary of the National Association of State Boards of Education.
Personal life and education
Kathleen Nagler was born in Harlem, the daughter of an Austrian-born lawyer and a homemaker. Her family moved to Belle Harbor for four years when she was as a young child, but returned to Manhattan thereafter, and she grew up on the West Side. She graduated from Hunter College, worked as a teacher for a year, and then as an economist in the United States Department of the Treasury in Washington, DC, where she met her first husband, Everett Straus. They married in New York in 1948, where she was an analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In 1952, Straus was offered a job with a cigar manufacturer in Detroit, and so they relocated with their young son. She began volunteer work with the League of Women Voters, the Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign, and millage campaigns to meet people in her new city. Her second child, a daughter, was born a few years later.
Everett Straus died on Thanksgiving Day in 1967, when their children were aged 16 and 10. In May 2008, as the 85 year old President of the Michigan State Board of Education, she married the Honorable Walter Shapero, a 77 year old bankruptcy judge still working full-time.
On moving to Detroit in 1952, Straus became involved with the League of Women voters, the Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign, millage campaigns to support local schools, and her local school PTA. Within a decade, she was president of the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Detroit, and was a member of the Board of the League of Women Voters of Michigan from 1963–1965. In 1963, she was active in the Michigan Constitutional Convention. She was elected chair of the Board of Wayne County Community College, but without tax revenue to support the college, the board dissolved in 1966. She co-chaired mayor Jerome Cavanagh's re-election campaign in 1965, and was hired to lead the millage campaign of 1966. Cavanaugh named her to the Detroit Commission on Community Relations in 1966.
During the 1980s, she co-founded the Michigan Tax Informational Council and served as the council's first president.
She has also been President of the American Jewish Committee, Detroit Region and Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Detroit, as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Michigan State Board for Public Junior and Community Colleges, the Detroit Science Center, the Advisory Board of the American Jewish Committee, ArtServe Michigan, Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, Michigan Women’s Studies Association, and Communities in Schools in Detroit.
Following the death of her first husband, mayor Cavanaugh named Straus assistant director of Detroit's Community Renewal Agency. At the end of his administration, she took a position with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, a regional planning agency. She resigned from this position to run for Congress in 1974 to succeed Martha Griffiths in Michigan's 17th congressional district, but lost in the democratic primary. She then became staff director for the Michigan Senate Education Committee, and later Director of Governmental Relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards. She was also the executive director of PRO Detroit (People and Responsible Organizations for Detroit), a coalition of business, labor, civic groups, and schools established to implement the court-ordered desegregation of schools in Detroit. Her final professional position before election to the Michigan State Board of Education was as President of the Center for Creative Studies, a Detroit arts college.
Michigan State Board of Education
First elected to the Michigan State Board of Education in 1992, Straus was re-elected for two additional eight-year terms, ending on January 1, 2017, when she was 93 years old. During this time, she served seven two-year terms as President of the Board. As a board member, she advocated for services to promote the social, emotional, and physical health of students and their families, including the provision of social services to communities in school buildings after school hours. She was a strong supporter of arts programs, and a frequent visitor to schools and classrooms. She advocated for accountability measures and quality controls for charter schools.
Straus has been awarded the David Kysilko Award from the National Association of State Boards of Education (2016), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Anti-Defamation League (2004), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Jewish Committee (2010), the Wade Hampton McCree Jr. Award from the Federal Bar Association – Eastern District of Michigan Chapter (2011), and has been selected as a member of the Hunter College Hall of Fame (1994), the Michigan Education Hall of Fame (1994), and the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame (2000).
- "Kathleen Straus interview by Geri Zeldes" (PDF). www.livinghistoryprojectmi.com. The Living History Project: Stories Told by Michigan's Oldest Old.
- "Walter P. Reuther Library Kathleen Straus Papers". reuther.wayne.edu. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
- "Kathleen Straus, April 8th, 2016 · Detroit 1967 Online Archive". detroit1967.detroithistorical.org. Interviewed by William Winkel. April 8, 2016. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
- http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Resolution_Kathleen_Straus_FINAL_546052_7.pdf Resolution on Kathleen Straus by the STATE OF MICHIGAN, STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, December 20, 2016
- Newsroom (2017-02-16). "Kathleen Straus retires, but won't stop fighting". Detroit Jewish News. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
- "Science Center: Kathleen Straus honors her late husband's dream with a gift to the Detroit museum". Detroit Jewish News. 2018-06-21. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
- "MINUTES, STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION" (PDF). www.michigan.gov. June 10, 2008.
Present: Mr. Michael P. Flanagan, Chairman, Mrs. Kathleen N. Straus, President...Mr. Flanagan congratulated Mrs. Straus on her recent marriage to Walter Shapero on May 25.
- "Walter Shapero Symposium-- N.Y. Times author regales bankruptcy bar > Oakland County Legal News". www.legalnews.com. Retrieved 2017-01-25.
- "Michigan Women's Hall of Fame: Kathleen N. Straus" (PDF). www.michiganwomenshalloffame.org. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
- "Michigan Department of Education: Kathleen Straus".
- "NASBE – Michigan Board Member Kathleen Straus Honored for Unwavering Commitment to Education". www.nasbe.org. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
- "Straus named recipient of FBA McCree Award > Detroit Legal News". www.legalnews.com. Retrieved 2017-01-24.