A Celebration of Life to honor Dr. Sandra Jane Shaw, 69, of Lawrence, KS, will be held on Saturday, November 13, 2010 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Circle S Ranch, north of Lawrence. The community is invited to join Sandra’s family for the celebration of her life.
Sandra died on Saturday, November 6, 2010. She left this life as she lived it, surrounded by her beloved family. She will be cremated and her ashes will go to several special places she chose.
Sandra Jane Cote was born on June 22, 1941 in Newport, NH, the daughter of Alfred J. & Lena F. Reney Cote and sister, Linda. She grew up in Grantham, NH, where she spent much of her childhood roaming the woods with her adored horse, Smoky Joe, her dear cousin, Beverly, and best friend, Tara. She fished and hunted with her father and later became a big sister to her brother, Michael. Her adventures with friends, horses, guns and a jeep in those northern woods, along with a tooth gifted by her father, earned her the nickname of “Wild Boar Cote.” Sandi attended the two-room Grantham Village School and Towle High School, where she played half-court basketball and excelled in academics while working as a waitress throughout her high school years to save for college tuition. After expending those savings on one year at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, she transferred with a scholarship to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in 1959. At UNH, Sandi served as the president of her sorority and graduated in 1962 with a major in psychology with honors.
In the fall of 1962, Sandi left her beloved New Hampshire to enter the doctoral program in psychology at the University of Kansas. She was one of only two women graduate students in her program and the only woman in her class to complete the Ph.D. Sandi earned her Master of Arts in 1965 and her Doctor of Philosophy in 1970, just one month before giving birth to her daughter, Jennifer, and shortly after winning the Lawrence City doubles bowling championship.
In 1965, Sandi married Artie Shaw and became a mother to his four children, Debbie, Alan, Risa and Leah. The children spent summers with Sandi and their father in a small farm house north of Lawrence. She taught them to ride horses, to garden, and to camp. She brought them into her New Hampshire family, shared with them her beloved woods and taught them to love being in nature and life. Her marriage to Artie ended in 1981, and Sandi took incalculable joy in continuing to watch her children grow and being a part of the journey of each of their lives.
From 1967 to 1968, Sandi completed an APA Approved Internship in psychology at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Leavenworth, KS. From 1968 to 1971, she worked as a Clinical Psychologist at Family Service and Guidance Center in Topeka, KS. In 1971, she became the Director of Children’s Services at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, Inc. in Lawrence. For the next 15 years, in addition to administrative duties, she worked as a clinician at Bert Nash, providing evaluative, psychotherapeutic, educational and consultation services with children, youth and adults. While her work turned toward administration, her passion for children’s health and welfare remained strong and she would return to that later in her life and career. In 1979, Dr. Shaw was appointed as the interim Executive Director of Bert Nash upon the retirement of Jan Snyder. Soon after she was named the Executive Director and then the Chief Executive Officer of the Bert Nash Center, a position she held until her retirement in 2001.
In 1982, Sandi fell in love with Doug Witt and spent countless days and nights together in the country with their dogs, dancing, traveling to New Hampshire and Alaska and to spend time with their family and friends across the country and abroad, spending time on their land, sharing fires with friends and hosting parties and events on the prairie. Sandi loved Doug’s children, Aaron and Laura, like her own and embraced them in her life and family. Doug was the love of her life and brought her peace and comfort that cannot be measured.
During her tenure as CEO of Bert Nash, the Center increased from about 9 to 179 employees. Sandi strove to create, develop and provide top quality behavioral health care for the residents of Douglas County. Sandi’s driving goal was for the Bert Nash Center to become the behavioral health home of choice for every person in the community, regardless of income or need. This vision guided her efforts and those of her dedicated staff for three decades.
Sandra’s commitment to quality included her own learning and growth as a person and professional. In 1991, to become a better health care administrator, she earned a Masters in Business Administration from the Helzberg Executive Fellows program at Rockhurst College in Kansas City, MO. In 1993, she completed the John F. Kennedy School of Government Summer Program for State and Local Executives at Harvard University.
In her professional life, Sandra was a member of the American Psychological Association, the Kansas Psychological Association, the Greater Kansas City Psychology Association, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and the first woman in Douglas County to be inducted into the Lawrence Rotary. She was also a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas Consortium.
Sandi’s “vision, unbounded energy, and compassion for those in need propelled community mental health forward in Douglas County. In her first two years, the budget doubled and it doubled again four years after that. Her professional legacy includes not only the thousands whose lives benefited from services they received but also many outstanding professionals who got their start under her guidance. The highest honor for an employee at Bert Nash is to be chosen by their peers for the Sandra Shaw Spirit Award.” (http://wellcommons.com/groups/bert-nash-community-mental-health-center/news/2010/nov/7/in-gratitude-for-sandi-sh/).
Upon her retirement from the Center in 2001, Sandra’s professional and personal life expanded. Her private clinical practice with Doug in Mark Meers holistic family law practice in Kansas City grew to include a Lawrence practice. She opened an office in town and later one at her home on the prairie. For the next five years, she volunteered extensively in Lawrence for the Eco2 Commission, the Kansas Land Trust and VanGo Mobile Arts, committed as ever to creating a healthy and sustainable planet for future generations.
The generations of her own family grew with the addition of nine grandchildren who she loved dearly and who gave her constant joy.
Sandra is survived by her husband, Doug Witt, of Lawrence, with whom she shared a life filled with love for nearly 30 years.
Other survivors include five daughters: Jennifer Shaw and husband Tim Peltier, of Wasilla, AK; Debbie Schwartz and husband Ron of Needham, MA; Risa Shaw and spouse, Sharon Gervasoni, of Takoma Park, MD; Leah Fen and husband, Michael, of Highlands Ranch, CO; Laura Bogart and husband, Mick, of Lawrence, KS; two sons: Alan Shaw and wife, Gin, of Atlanta, GA; Aaron Witt and wife, Beth, of Rochester, NY. She is also survived by her beloved sister, Linda Morrow of Newport, NH, her brother, Michael Cote and wife, Sue, of Grantham, NH, as well as nine grandchildren: Aaron Shaw; Allie, McCall, Jamil, and Kiana Fen; Casey and Haley Shaw; Wittney and Mckenzie Bogart; four nieces, Meg Morrow and husband Robert Parker, of Silver Spring, MD; Melissa Morrow and partner Peter Thornton of Falls Church, VA; Amy and husband Joe Benton, of Oxford, GA; and Tara McIntire and partner Jean Gorecki, of San Francisco, CA; two nephews, Tony Cote and wife Erin Houde of Springfield, NH; and Todd and wife Tanya McIntire of Grantham, NH and many beloved great-nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and the best community of friends one could ever have.
Sandra was preceded in death by her father, Fred Cote, her mother, Lena Cote, her cousin, Beverly McIntire and her brother-in-law, Dennis Morrow.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Van Go Mobile Arts, and the Bert Nash Center, and may be sent in care of the Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence.
Directions to the community Celebration of Life at the Circle S Ranch can be found online at: www.circlesranch.com.