Shirley Elizabeth Burr was an only child, born to Clifford Burr and Cathryn (Spring) Burr on June 14, 1922 in Madison, Connecticut.
Madison is a shore town straddling the Boston Post Road twenty miles east of New Haven. Clifford ran the A&P grocery store. Cathryn was a seamstress. She often made dresses for the wealthy folks who came to Madison and summered in their “cottages” (mansions) overlooking the Long Island Sound.
While Shirley was a small child the Burrs lived across the street from Leland and Katherine Darling and their children Dorothy (“Dottie”) and Lawrence (“Buddy”, later “Larry”).
Madison is home to the Madison Beach Hotel, a big old resort hotel facing the Sound. Shirley became life-long friends with the daughter of the owners, Marybelle Coupe. She remembered fondly spending time in the summers playing with Marybelle around the hotel and at the beach, and dining with her friend in the elegant hotel dining room.
Having aspirations for her young daughter, Cathryn procured many different extracurricular lessons for Shirley. She took dance, piano, elocution, and voice, mainly driving down to New Haven on Saturdays for them.
Being unsatisfied with the public schools in Madison, Cathryn had similar ambitions for Shirley’s formal education. For her final two years of high school she enrolled Shirley at Northfield School for Girls (now Northfield Mount Herman School) in north-central Massachusetts, known for accepting students of diverse economic backgrounds.
Shirley would say that it was at Northfield that she learned to buckle down to her studies with seriousness, and to work hard at her academics. This, she thought, was the turning point in her life. It also was her ticket to Brown (Pembroke at that time).
Shirley thrived at Brown, graduating with the class of 1944. Afterwards she got a job with The International Institute in Providence, which in her telling was a social organization featuring people of recent immigration, especially from Portugal. She said it was an eye-opening experience for a girl with her cloistered childhood.
She re-met Larry Darling back home in Madison in 1948. It was a magical match. They were married that December.
They moved to the Chicago area for a few years. In the early 1950’s they settled in Silver Lake, Ohio, a tiny “village” between Akron and Kent. Larry worked as a sales executive for a manufacturing concern in Kent.
They had two sons. David was born in 1952. Steven was born in 1955.
Shortly thereafter, Shirley, unlike virtually all the other moms in Silver Lake, took a job. She worked for Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, recruiting high school girls to apply for admission.
She said working outside the home elicited eye-rolls from her 1950’s-era homemaker neighbors. But Larry was in favor, and Shirley was determined. She travelled around Ohio for Western until 1974.
In 1975 she and Larry moved to Denver for his work. They took up residence in the Crestmoor Park area. From there Shirley recruited students for Lindenwood College in Missouri, covering the western US (including Hawaii!).
In 1979 she started her own business, Educational Consulting Service (ECS), on S. Colorado Boulevard. For over 40 years, she continued her life’s work, helping thousands of families find their way through the labyrinth of the college admissions process.
In 1981 Shirley was honored to receive the Brown Bear award. This is given by the Brown Alumni Association to recognize "outstanding and wide-ranging personal service rendered the University over a period of years." In the 77 years since the award was instituted, there have been only 224 recipients. It’s the top award given out by the alumni association.
For 43 years until her retirement Shirley belonged to the Independent Educational Consultants Association, frequently attending conferences and visiting colleges with the group. She was a treasured member of IECA. Her many contributions over the years helped to shape both IECA and the profession of independent educational consulting. She was always generous with her expertise, and held firmly to her high ethical standards and commitment to serving the best interests of her students.
She was a frequent and much sought after presenter at professional conferences, and was always willing to sit with colleagues to help them with tough cases, mentoring new consultants with all the wisdom and grace for which she was known and so admired. Recognized many times over the years for her dedication to her students and numerous contributions to the profession, Shirley’s legacy of professionalism, kindness, and compassion will live on at IECA.
Larry passed away in 1981. Shirley never remarried.
Shirley (and Larry before his death) was a devoted church-goer throughout her years in Denver. She attended the Kirk of Bonnie Brae, giving freely of her time to volunteer on committees, raise donations, etc.
ECS closed up shop in March 2020 on the eve of the Covid pandemic. That’s when Shirley moved to the Independent Living community at St. Andrew’s Village in Aurora, Colorado.
She spent the final three years of her life at St. Andrew’s, happily participating in the activities and becoming a treasured member of the community there.
Shirley passed away in her sleep on March 18, 2023, having lived a long and full life. The cause was complications of multiple myeloma.
A memorial service will be held at 11am on Saturday July 15, 2023 at the Kirk of Bonnie Brae, 1201 Steele St., Denver, CO 80210