This story was published in the 2018 issue of Transform magazine. To read the full story, click here.
The gratification of giving
Ron Shiffler ’70 and his wife, Barbara, are kindred spirits — they met in Atlanta when Ron took his first teaching position as a statistics professor at Georgia State University. Barbara comes from an accounting background, and worked in finance at the time. They’re numbers people, always thinking about investments and returns.
As a newly married couple, the greatest return they hoped for was having children. They began their new life together in Kentucky, where Ron joined the faculty at the University of Louisville.
In the midst of settling into a new city and trying to start a family, Ron and Barbara encountered some difficulties. “We kept trying and trying. We had artificial insemination 24 times and in vitro twice. It went on for years,” Barbara says. “It was really distressing.”
Two fertility doctors told Barbara that their difficulties may be stress-induced; she was, after all, working on her dissertation at the University of Kentucky. With that in mind, Barbara decided to try a six-week class in quilting as a relaxing activity. She calls it a “forehead-slapping moment” — she had discovered her calling. Two years later, she quit her job in finance and didn’t look back.
“I just love it,” Barbara says. “I’d rather quilt than eat.”
Ron and Barbara never could have children, but it hasn’t stopped them from leading fulfilling, joyous and generous lives. Beyond quilting, Barbara still plays guitar since her father taught her as a child. She and Ron run 5Ks, and dote on two beautiful rescue Labs.
With no children to include in their will, Ron and Barbara established the Robert and Lois Shiffler Scholarship with the UNCG School of Education, which provides a way for them to contribute to students’ educations and make a difference in their lives. The Shifflers see the impact they are making in the handwritten thank-you notes filled with words of appreciation from recipients.
“You have no idea how dear that is, to get those notes,” Barbara says. “It is so gratifying.”
Gratifying to read about students’ goals for the future. Gratifying because higher education is so important to the Shifflers, personally and professionally.
From student to alumnus to donor
A Pennsylvania native, Ron attended UNCG as a math major. He lived in residence halls to be more involved on campus, experiencing a nurturing and supportive community that remains a source of fond memories. He dedicated his career to higher education, working as a professor in Atlanta and Louisville and later becoming a dean at Western Carolina University, where he could be closer to his father. Ron’s mother passed away in 1992, and when his father died in 1999, he and Barbara established the Robert and Lois Shiffler Scholarship as a tribute to Ron’s parents. Ron moved on to be a dean at Georgia Southern in 2002 and then a dean at Queens University in Charlotte in 2012 before retiring a few years ago.
When the time came to rework their will, the couple thought, Why leave it in the will? Why not give it now, and see what happens with it?
“I’m a finance person,” Barbara says, “So I look at an investment and I think: What’s the return? Giving to UNCG is an investment, and we’re giving part of an education.”
“You don’t have to give a million dollars,” Ron adds. “If you’re proud of your school, give a dollar. $20, $50, anything.”