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Shapira will be 1st woman to chair universities board

Debra Erdley
| Thursday, July 14, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Cynthia Shapira, a trustee at Brandeis University, is a vice chair on Gov.-elect Tom Wolf’s transition team.
Cynthia Shapira, a trustee at Brandeis University, is a vice chair on Gov.-elect Tom Wolf’s transition team.

Cynthia Shapira of Fox Chapel, who is well-known in Western Pennsylvania civic and political circles, on Thursday was elected the first female to lead the board that oversees policies for Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities.

Shapira, 60, whom Gov. Tom Wolf appointed to the board of governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education in December, is the fifth person to chair the board formed with the creation of the state system in 1983.

State system universities in Western Pennsylvania include California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock.

A summa cum laude graduate of Wellesley College with a master's degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Shapira was a management consultant to education and nonprofit institutions before becoming president of the David S. and Karen A. Shapira Foundation. She previously served on Wolf's transition team.

Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said Shapira is well-suited to lead the board that guides the universities that enroll 100,000 students statewide.

“Cindy has deep experience in education policy, specifically higher education, as well as workforce development. Gov. Wolf is pleased to have appointed Cindy chair because she shares his vision for ensuring Pennsylvania residents have access to affordable colleges and universities that equip them with the skills they need to succeed in a 21st century economy,” Sheridan said.

Shapira did not return a call for comment Thursday.

Her resume includes a long list of civic and community affairs posts. She is chair of the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Federation. She is on the boards of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Point Park University and Brandeis University.

She is a member of the Governor's Advisory Board for Education and Workforce Development and served on the Pennsylvania Women's Commission under Gov. Tom Corbett. She previously served on the boards of the United Way of Allegheny County, The Pittsburgh Promise, WQED, and Vibrant Pittsburgh and chaired the PA Center for Women in Politics at Chatham University.

Aaron Walton, 69, of Allison Park, was elected co-vice chair of the board along with David Masser, 45, of Philadelphia.

Walton, who retired from Highmark Inc. as a senior vice president, is senior vice president of Silver Eco-Solutions of Indianola, a product supplier to the oil and gas industry.

Masser, an attorney, has worked in law and government for 17 years. He has been involved in multiple presidential campaigns.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or

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