What the Sheas understood

I appreciated the coverage of John Shea’s life and legacy in the Nov. 4 issue following his passing last month, which I think captured an important truth about John and his wife, Dorothy: that there was no end to what they would do to help children and families.

I first met John and Dorothy Shea when I was assistant superintendent of the Pasadena Unified School District in the early 1990s. I had the honor of working with them for 10 years (also later as superintendent), starting with their support for a four-year-old kindergarten program (such programs did not enjoy the public funding they do now). I believe this was their only investment in public schools before they became known for their generosity to Catholic schools.

The Sheas inspired so many teachers like myself who have worked in different capacities in education. They understood the importance of early learning and early child development as well as anyone, including researchers, policymakers, or teachers. They were deeply committed to all aspects of forming our youngest children — especially those who didn’t have all that they needed — not just educationally, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. And our Catholic children and families are the better for it.

— Vera Vignes is the school board chair of St. Andrew’s Catholic School in Pasadena.

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