Citation to the 2016 Honorary Degree recipient

Brenda Bernstein Shapiro ’58

Presented by Vice Chair of the Pine Manor Board of Trustees,
Serena Strazzulla Kokjer Greening

May 15th, 2016

On behalf of the President and Board of Trustees, it is my very great honor to present this Honorary Degree to Brenda Bernstein Shapiro.

Brenda, you are the very example of what Pine Manor College strives to inspire in students. Like several of the students sitting here today, you grew up in New England and enrolled at Pine Manor after an undistinguished high school graduation. At Pine Manor you began your life’s journey of both family and career accomplishments of excellence. You used your higher education to be empowered, become a leader, unlock your true gifts and talents, and then, give back to the community in a selfless effort to help others replicate your success.

Your education and degrees are distinguished. Today Pine Manor is bestowing upon you, your 4th college degree and second doctorate. In addition to your Pine Manor degree, you hold a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Miami and JD from the University of Miami Law School, which you received at the age of 52.

After Pine Manor, you married, moved to Florida and gave birth to and raised 3 sons: Daniel, Jonathan and Adam Shapiro. Two of whom are here today to honor you. You established the Law Offices of Brenda B. Shapiro, LLC in 1994, where you are Managing Partner, and provide legal counsel to clients on family law matters, including prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, divorce, child custody, access and time sharing, post-dissolution, domestic violence, and grandparents’ rights. You also practice the dispute-resolution method known as Collaborative Law.

Throughout your career, the judicial system and governor of the State of Florida has honored you for exemplary work and asked you to consult on some of their highest profile cases. Perhaps the most well known was as a consulting attorney in writing the brief for Miami’s high-profile custody case of six-year-old Cuban Elian Gonzalez, who arrived in the United States on an inner tube without his mother, who died in the crossing. In 2000, many of us watched that case live on TV, with no knowledge of the important role you played.

Your other accolades include: Martindale-Hubbell - AV Peer Review Rated for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability (2009), Listed in South Florida Legal Guide (2008-2009), Listed in Super Lawyers (2007) and Jewish Museum of Florida’s Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award (2003). You are a member The Florida Bar, Section on Family Law, Dade County Bar Association, American Civil Liberties Union, International Women’s Forum National Council of Jewish Women, Collaborative Law Institute – Founding Director, Civilian Investigative Panel, City of Miami – Chair (2007-2009), Community Relations Board, City of Miami – Chair (2003-2006). You were the first woman director of a Hillel Foundation at a State University (Florida International University). You are an active member of the Women’s Division of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, where you created the Women’s Intergroup Network. You were also the first woman director of the Florida American Jewish Committee.

As though your examples were not enough, you have tirelessly contributed your talent, knowledge,
creativity and financial resources to this College and the students we look to serve. You have been a trustee of Pine Manor College since 1998, founded the board of visitors and served as it first chairperson, and for 4 years was Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees.

In your personal life, your 3 sons have bestowed upon you 6 grandchildren on whom you dote. As each celebrates his /her Bar Mitzvah, you take each grandchild on a trip to Europe to bond and explore. Lucky Grandchildren!! You are married to Javier Bray whom you met when you were organizing support for bilingual education in the Miami-Dade public schools. You were the Florida Director of the American Jewish Committee, and he was the founding President of the Spanish American League Against Discrimination.

For all your personal and professional accomplishments, we are more than honored to award you today with an honorary degree from your Alma Mater.