I came onto the Lansing Board of Education skeptical of the person the media portrayed as divisive and unreasonable.

But Shirley Rodgers won me over, like she did so many. She demonstrated a true love of her work and uncompromising convictions. She became one of my most trusted mentors, and our odd-couple friendship is one I will cherish for the rest of my days. It’s difficult to accept that I’ll never again hear her full-body laugh or get another late night call to talk about the budget or Spartan hoops. I join countless others in our community who mourn her loss but will forever value the mark she left on Lansing.

She was a fierce advocate for fairness and a dedicated public servant, right up until she passed away in her sleep at 69, leaving behind her a lasting legacy — one unique to each person whose life she touched.

Born in the South and raised in Saginaw, Shirley was the only child of parents who demonstrated the value of hard work and instilled in her a belief in service. It was that belief that lead her to a lifetime of involvement in her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Inc., a sisterhood dedicated to improving the human condition. Although she bled green, she rarely left the house without her Zeta blue. After leaving MSU, Shirley embarked on a 30-year career at the Lansing School District, first in administration and then on the Board of Education, from 2007 until last week.

A trailblazer in every sense of the word, she was elected in 1981 to the Lansing Community College Board of Trustees, the first African-American to serve on that body. She also served our community on the Ingham County Road Commission, the MSU Black Alumni Association, the City Clerk’s Office as an election super chair, and countless other boards and volunteer positions.

None of these positions was more dear to her than as the Board of Education’s liaison to the Junior Board. The kids thought of her as a mentor. She thought of each child as one of her own.

I first came to know her as a controversial figure leading the Ingham County Road Commission and the Lansing school board. The courage of her convictions and her bravery to do what she thought was right didn’t always endear her to the media and politicians, but the electorate and those who worked with her loved her.

We entrust our elected officials to make difficult decisions when faced with financial hardship. Shirley’s ability to make tough decisions is what made her such an effective and respected public servant.

She measured barely 5 feet tall, but she was a giant. She gave all she had to service, not for personal gain, but out of a belief that leaving the world a better place for those that come after you is our obligation. We should all aspire to care as much as Shirley Rodgers.

Growing up during the Civil Rights movement, she witnessed firsthand cruelty and inequality. Those experiences shaped her outlook and formed her mantra; she’d often say, “It takes just a little effort to make someone feel special, and it will always come back.”

Shirley put forth more than just a little effort.

She will be missed by me, our community, her friends and by everyone whose lives she touched.

Rest in peace, Shirley — you’ve earned it.

Peter Spadafore served on the Lansing School District Board of Education with Shirley Rodgers from 2012 to 2018 and was recently sworn in as an at-large member of the Lansing City Council.

liaison to the Junior Board. The kids thought of her as a mentor. She thought of each child as one of her own.

I first came to know her as a controversial figure leading the Ingham County Road Commission and the Lansing school board. The courage of her convictions and her bravery to do what she thought was right didn’t always endear her to the media and politicians, but the electorate and those who worked with her loved her.

We entrust our elected officials to make difficult decisions when faced with financial hardship. Shirley’s ability to make tough decisions is what made her such an effective and respected public servant.

She measured barely 5 feet tall, but she was a giant. She gave all she had to service, not for personal gain, but out of a belief that leaving the world a better place for those that come after you is our obligation. We should all aspire to care as much as Shirley Rodgers.

Growing up during the Civil Rights movement, she witnessed firsthand cruelty and inequality. Those experiences shaped her outlook and formed her mantra; she’d often say, “It takes just a little effort to make someone feel special, and it will always come back.”

Shirley put forth more than just a little effort.

She will be missed by me, our community, her friends and by everyone whose lives she touched.

Rest in peace, Shirley — you’ve earned it.

Peter Spadafore served on the Lansing School District Board of Education with Shirley Rodgers from 2012 to 2018 and was recently sworn in as an at-large member of the Lansing City Council.