From Picking Cotton To University President...The UNLIKELY Story Of A Leader Worth Following

Posted by Duane Cummings on 06/20/2016


As the daughter of a sharecropper, Shirley Raines grew up working in the cotton fields of Western Tennessee. Each day as she labored, she would regularly see airplanes passing over and constantly dreamed of traveling the world. Years later, that dream was fulfilled when DOCTOR Shirley Raines began circling the globe as one of the most inspiring educators and thought leaders on the planet.

Now, her path wasn't easy, and the rise to the top didn't happen overnight.  Shirley's first step was to become a kindergarten teacher in Kentucky. After which, she began moving up the ladder armed with a positive attitude, thirst for knowledge, and the work ethic of a determined farm girl.  Shirley kept learning and took on each and every challenge placed before her.  Sometimes, "opportunity" was disguised as a position that no one else wanted, but she always made the most of it.

During her amazing career, Shirley has not only taught, but also spoke to teachers in an Ecuadorian school with a dirt floor, on behalf of the Education Association at the United Nations, and on the prestigious Harvard University campus every summer for seven years, where she was a faculty member of the Institute of New Presidents and Chancellors.

Shirley is a true pioneer and a woman of many "Firsts"

She was the first person in her family to attend college, the first Female Chairperson of Conference USA, and the first Female President at The University of Memphis. In addition, she’s also a member of the Tennessee Hall of Fame and the author of fourteen books.

After serving for twelve years as president at the University of Memphis, Dr. Raines stepped down and moved with her husband Dr. Robert J. Canady to Knoxville, Tennessee where she’s spending more time with her son, and two grandchildren. But don’t be fooled, Shirley didn’t retire.

Dr. Raines is still teaching and leading, but her “campus” has expanded. From Non Profit organizations to corporate boardrooms, she consults, facilitates, and shares her story to educate, encourage, and inspire all of those she comes in contact with.

Shirley always brings a unique perspective to every challenge or situation she faces, and is one of the most “giving” people you will ever meet. So much so, that...

all of the fees she receives from speaking, facilitating, and consulting are donated to a scholarship fund at the University of Memphis.

So, if you’re looking for inspiration, or are interested to learn the priceless lessons she’s accumulated after living a most remarkable life, I suggest you reach out to Dr. Shirley Raines on her website, or here on LinkedIn.  It’s not everyday that you can learn from a person who went from picking cotton to become the president of a university.

MEET MY FRIENDS MONDAY--- I’ve asked some of my friends if I could share their stories, in hopes of inspiring anyone who may be focused on crafting #aSensationalLife…and they happily agreed.

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Duane Cummings