William “Bill” Shapiro, former Oxford College of Emory University professor of political science, died on Dec. 4, 2023 at his home in Oxford, Ga. after battling progressive supranuclear palsy for over a year. Bill was 77 years old, and he is survived by his two children, Jacob Logan Shapiro and Leah Shapiro, and two granddaughters, Anne Love Shapiro and Caroline Munroe Mason.
Bill was born in Toulouse, France in 1946 as the son of Holocaust survivors and moved to New York when he was three months old. He went on to earn his undergraduate degree at Brooklyn College (N.Y.) and his master’s and doctorate degrees from Cornell University (N.Y.). Bill’s first teaching job was at Kenyon College (Ohio), where he met his future wife, Anne Munroe Shapiro, who died after a battle with melanoma in 2005. She was the “love of his life.”
After leaving Kenyon College to briefly work at the American Enterprise Institute, Bill accepted a job at Oxford College, where he would spend the remainder of his life. He taught at the college from 1979 until his retirement in May 2022. Jacob Shapiro said that he and his father had a very close relationship when he was a child growing up in Oxford.
“He was objectively the best father there was in the entire world,” Jacob Shapiro said. “He devoted himself completely to his children and to his family in every way, in good times and in bad.”
Bill had a farm in Oxford until the day he died, raising his kids alongside horses, donkeys, geese, chickens, goats, sheep and turkeys. Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus of Politics and History Harvey Klehr said his family grew close to Bill’s during visits to the farm.
Jacob Shapiro also remembered Bill as a dedicated professor. He recalled the evenings he spent watching his father grade papers with his classic red pen, “giving all 40s and 60s on his infamous pop quizzes.” When smartphones were first released, Bill bought a second one solely for students to contact him if needed, Jacob Shapiro said.
“In my soul I am a teacher,” Bill told Emory Magazine in 2012.
Throughout his 43 years at Oxford, Bill received the Fleming Award in 1987, the Williams Award in 2007 and the Mizell Award in 2009 for his excellence in teaching and furthering students’ success.
In 2017, Emory University created the William and Anne Munroe Shapiro Endowment, which provides books and academic materials to Oxford students.
Senior Director of Advancement and Alumni Engagement Tammy Camfield (89Ox, 91C), one of Bill’s former students, said that Bill was very involved with the Oxford Jewish Student Union. She explained that he “started it in a way” and would often have his students over to his home for Friday night Shabbat dinner.
After she graduated from Oxford, Camfield maintained a close relationship with Bill. She recalled that he was the first person to tell her about Facebook.
“He was ahead of his time in many ways,” Camfield said.
At Emory, Camfield is in charge of contacting professors to attend alumni events. She explained that despite few faculty members returning for alumni reunion weekends, Bill was always there without her having to ask more than once.
“He was everywhere that our alumni were,” Camfield said.
Klehr first met Bill through their careers as political analysts in the ’70s. Although he and Bill worked on separate campuses, Klehr said they maintained a close friendship over the last 40 years.
“He was probably one of the most beloved and considered one of the best teachers at Oxford, which, of course, has a reputation for having a lot of great teachers,” Klehr said.
Klehr taught many of Bill’s former students after they matriculated to the Atlanta campus. He said that it was “remarkable” how they were consistently successful in academics, which he largely attributed to Bill’s teaching skills and the close relationships he formed with his students.
“Students really idolized Bill and they spoke of him with just incredible respect and affection,” Klehr said.
Bill shared the same respect and love for his students, according to Jacob Shapiro.
“I’ve never seen a professor in my life who cared more about his students,” Jacob Shapiro said.
Correction (2/14/24 at 7:15 p.m.): A previous version of this article referred to former Oxford College Professor of Political Science William Shapiro as “William.” In fact, he went by “Bill.”