Barbara Pedersen Shapiro ’63

Attorney, Educator, Artist

In the Memory Book from her 50th Reunion, Barbara Pedersen Shapiro ’63 wrote: “HWS prepared me to have a broad vision of the world, to be competent in fields that interested me and to have enough courage to try new things, to be confident that I could master them, and to be flexible and adaptive to circumstance.” 

And over the course of her varied career, by turns courageous, masterful and flexible, Shapiro’s broad vision of the world has been guided by her passions.

After graduating from William Smith with a degree in English, she earned her master’s and Ph.D. in English from Harvard University, teaching college English before and after getting her degree.

“I was attracted to English by two great teachers I had at HWS: Otto Schoen-Rene and Paul Lauter,” she says. “I loved fiction and poetry and was able to expand my appreciation of these at HWS and get a great background. I also think I am a natural ‘teacher’ of sorts, so the two meshed well in my career as an English teacher and later as a lawyer.”

After her husband served a three-year stint in the U.S. Army conducting microbiology research, Shapiro and her husband moved to New Hampshire, and then Colorado and New Mexico for reasons of her husband’s health. They both then decided to change careers.

“My husband’s health necessitated a move to the mountainous west, there were no available positions in English at the time (the early 70s), and by chance the first year in New Mexico we lived in Santa Fe and I was drawn into a legal battle over the state’s new Equal Rights Amendment,” Shapiro says. “I was taught how to lobby by Anne Bingamen to defeat an attempt to rescind it (she later became the head of the anti-trust division under the Clinton Administration). This experience got me interested in the law.”

Shapiro and her husband enrolled in law school together at the University of New Mexico, where Shapiro was on the Moot Court team, served on the Board of Editors of the New Mexico Law Review, and was elected to the Order of the Coif and Delta Theta Phi honorary societies. In 1978, she graduated and was admitted to the Bar.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, she rose to the rank of partner at Poole, Kelly & Ramo attorneys in Albuquerque, N.M and developed a specialty in family law. Between 1987 and 1994, she served as an adjunct professor at the law school at the University of New Mexico ands worked as a lobbyist for the Family Law Section of the State Bar.

“Family law used my writing and storytelling ability as well as my interest in people and psychology,” Shapiro says. “It felt natural to work in the field, listening to people’s stories and problem solving.”

After Poole, Kelly & Ramo disbanded, Shapiro struck out on her own, specializing in family law, divorce, child custody, appeals, settlement facilitation, post decree actions and modifications and prenuptial agreements.

She has published several articles on family law and two books, one on a computer system of forms for Family Law and “Family Law in New Mexico.” She is a member of the Albuquerque Bar Association, the American Bar Association and the State Bar of New Mexico (chair, Family Law Section, 1989-90). She has been a fellow at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers; a delegate, Council on Community property States; and recognized as a specialist in family law by the New Mexico Board of Legal Specialization.

Shapiro retired “after 23 years in law practice and burning the candles at both ends,” and has in recent years become a successful visual artist, graduating magna cum laude with a B.F.A. in printmaking from the University of New Mexico in 2009.

“My mother was an artist and art teacher,” Shapiro says. “I wanted to try it and I missed the aesthetic expression I had enjoyed in the field of English. Also, I was tired of talking so much: the kind of art I do is very physical and it is a visual medium where you don’t say a lot.”

“I layer different sorts of printmaking in my prints, so in a sense I am a multi-media sort of printmaker,” she says. “I recently have been working on expanding it into three dimensions: I’ve done some pieces printing and carving on wood and just got some new wood-carving tools. My grandfather was a carpenter, so I think my genetic family history is coming out! I’m also an avid gardener, so I’m trying to include more of that in my work.”

Constantly expanding her skills and trying new methods, Shapiro joined a local printmaking group whose members show and have workshops together.

“I really enjoy the process of my art,” she says. “I just work at it: making art takes skill and there is no end to learning.” 

Her work was featured in four shows in 2013 alone and has been exhibited widely, throughout New Mexico and internationally, earning the red ribbon at the Albuquerque Go Festival (2009).

Shapiro has been a consistent supporter of the Colleges, serving as Class Agent and Trustee. As she reflected in the Memory Book, “I’ve always felt that it was important to give back some of the support that was given to me by the Colleges and to thank them for a great education and a safe, beautiful, stimulating environment.”

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.