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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Ronny Zinner, trustee, passes at 70

Published: April 4, 2014
Section: News

Ronny Zinner, a longtime trustee of Brandeis University and president of the Shapiro foundation, passed away recently at the age of 70. As the eldest daughter of Carl and Ruth Shapiro, she joined the Brandeis Board of Trustees in 1992 and served many posts from treasurer to secretary. While the Shapiro family made incredible changes to Brandeis, Zinner had her own personal passion, the Heller School of Social Policy and Management. She died on March 18 in Boston.

“Ronny Zinner was respected by fellow members of the Board of Trustees. She was well informed and chose her moments in meetings to make the most impact. When she spoke, everyone listened,” said President Fred Lawrence in an interview with The Hoot this week.

Zinner attended Sarah Lawrence College, and earned a master’s degree from Boston University’s School of Social Work. She also graduated from Harvard University School of Education. Her main passion was philanthropy.

Given her focus on the Heller School, Zinner and her husband, Michael Zinner, were inspired to establish the Rhonda S. and Michael J. Zinner Forum, a sort of gathering space for interested students and community members. She also financially supported Heller graduate students, and offered career guidance.

Nancy Winship, P’10, P’13 reported to BrandeisNOW that Zinner truly cared about students. “Ronny was a warm, caring person who had the innate ability to connect with students and make them believe in themselves,” Winship said to BrandeisNOW.

Despite this central focus, Zinner was still involved in many aspects of Brandeis. “One example was that she brought a group of her friends to hear Ellsworth Kelly’s gallery talk at The Rose Art Museum that took place during last year’s commencement weekend,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence compared Zinner to an artist. “She saw the campus as a canvas, working closely with the university to envision and re-landscape the entrance area to the Science Center. This is a wonderful example of just one thing she did to help improve the look and feel of the campus,” he said.

In her involvement outside of the Brandeis campus, Zinner served as an overseer at the Museum of Fine Arts. She was also associated with the Thomas Segal Gallery, the Boston Symphony and Tanglewood.

She leaves behind her husband, father and her daughter, Jennifer Herman, and son, Jonathan Segal. Her two sisters, five grandchildren and two stepsons also survive her.

“She was kind, wise, supportive and generous and will be missed by everyone who knew her,” said Lawrence.