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Dr. Shirley Raines, speaker

Shirley Raines

    • First Female President, University of Memphis
    • President Emeritus, University of Memphis
    • Early Childhood Education & Leadership Development Expert
Full Bio
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Travels From


From Pink Purse to Briefcase

From Pink Purse to Briefcase

Acceptance Speech

Acceptance Speech

Leadership Lessons

Leadership Lessons

Shirley Raines Speaker Biography

Dr. Shirley Raines was born in Jackson, Tennessee, and grew up on a cotton farm near Bells. She completed her undergraduate education at UT Martin, studying child development, and then worked as a kindergarten teacher for several years. She later undertook further studies at UT Knoxville, graduating with an M.Sc. in child development and later a D.Ed. in elementary and early education.

Before entering administration, Raines taught for periods at the University of Alabama; North Carolina Wesleyan College; Northeastern State University, Oklahoma; George Mason University, Virginia; and the University of South Florida. In 1995, she was appointed the dean of education at the University of Kentucky; she was additionally made vice-president for academic affairs three years later. She served as president of the Association for Childhood Education International from 1999 to 2001. In January 2001, the board of regents of the University of Memphis elected Raines as the successor to President V. Lane Rawlins – the first woman to hold the position. Her term began on July 1, 2001, and continued until her retirement on June 30, 2013. As president, Raines oversaw the acquisition of Lambuth University, the establishment of the University of Memphis Research Foundation and the Memphis Research Consortium, and the construction of a number of new buildings. She was inducted into the Tennessee Women's Hall of Fame in 2013, and retired to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where she works as a motivational speaker and leadership consultant.

From Pink Purse to Briefcase – Leadership Stories and Guidance 

“From a pink purse, I take objects out and show them to the audience.  The objects are used to symbolize the leadership stories and guidance needed when answering ten questions for reflection on becoming a leader.”The ten questions for reflection – How did you arrive here?  Do you have your dream position now?  Who holds a position similar to the one to which you aspire?  What knowledge and skills do you need to acquire? How do you handle relationships in your position?  What are some old failures, old grievances or perceptions you need to leave behind? What are the disagreeable aspects of your present position?  Who and what kind of people do you want on your team? What inspires you?  What specifically is your next step toward your leadership position?”

Dreamers, Thinkers, Doers

“More than a motto, the phrase emphasizes steps successful people take to make a difference in their personal lives, families, communities, and society. The speech gives highlights of their lives and quotes from those who achieved more because they were dreamers, thinkers, doers.”  (The speech can be adapted to a variety of fields with mention of prominent people from that field. I have given this speech to educators, a sorority, a regional U.S. attorney’s office, foundation donors and to AAUW for a celebration of present-day women pioneers).

Leadership Stories of a Preschool Teacher Who Became a University President


Longer Training Sessions

Knock on the Door of Opportunity and Introduce Your Strengths

“Opportunity does not always knock; we have to knock on the door.  Be yourself, your best self, when you knock.  Know your strengths, the organization’s strengths and how you are a match.  Embrace your strengths, own them, learn how to state them and seek those in the organization who are using their strengths for leadership, creativity, and productivity.”  (The speech emphasizes both opportunity and strengths.  A discussion of strengths and talents, along with work habits and ethics are mentioned.  The speech has been given as a commencement address at Roane State Community College, East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee, Martin).

Leadership Lessons from Some Unlikely Sources 1-2 hours

 “From an Aesop fable to the latest gurus’ advice, I ask some potent questions, tell some humorous stories, and analyze some leadership cases while inviting the audience to decide what lessons should be learned from the dilemmas mentioned in the cases.”Using Kieran Egan’s quote, ‘The mind organizes best in story form,’ I use some leadership cases and stories of dilemmas I faced in my career. The titles of the Cases are:

  • Naïve Assistant Professor Becomes Department Chair 
  • 3/4 Position for the Wife
  • Is Sunny Florida Our Retirement Home?
  • They Will Never Select a Woman President in Memphis.

Quotes and advice are offered from Bradberry’s and Greaves’ Emotional Intelligence; Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There and Learning Journeys; and John Maxwell’s Falling Forward.  Favorite quotes from Aesop, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Estee Lauder are added to the ending.

Keys to Teamwork


Retreats for Boards & Preconference Presentations:

Inspired Leadership Now and Leaving a Leadership Legacy

“The overall objectives were to create more vibrant state affiliates for the professional organization and to identify and shepherd new and emerging leaders.”Based on the results of a questionnaire devised by the speaker with the Executive Director, the following session was planned.

Participants were asked to:

  1. Refine leadership style, skills and connections for effectiveness in meeting the organization’s goals
  2. Identify new faces, new offices, new concrete ideas that worked for growth in other associations that could be applied to this association
  3. Create stepping stones to increased responsibility for emerging leaders
  4. Plan the leadership legacy of present leaders to turned over the reins of the organization to new leaders
  5. Accountability for developing and following state affiliates’ plans
  6. Commitment to accept and support the State Affiliates’ Rebuilding Plans 

During the course of the 2 days of sessions, the participants assessed their personal and their team’s leadership styles, skills, and effectiveness.

They became personal leadership shoppers and answered the question, “What do you already have in your leadership wardrobe?” and “What accessories do you need to add to your wardrobe to be effective?”

Communications while Living Life in the Public Eye – 3 hours

This seminar was developed and presented at the Harvard Institute for New Presidents and Chancellors where I spoke for five summers. It varied from year to year, but the general topic of communications and being a public person in the community was at the center of the discussions. 

Beyond Ideas to Actionable Plans


Topics for Education Audiences

Life Lessons from Children’s Literature 1-2 hours or can be modified for a brief inspirational speech

A brief statement of the history of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is presented. The Imagination Library has now delivered millions of books to children from birth to age 5. The Imagination Library started in Tennessee and is now throughout the US, Canada, UK, and Australia.

Short selections from children’s literature are presented followed by life lessons derived from Aesop’s Fables and the theme book of the Imagination Library – The Little Engine that Could with the motto, ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.’ Other highlighted books are Leo, the Late Bloomer for a lesson to overly anxious parents; Koala Lou for parents’ pressure on children about sports; The Ugly Duckling about appearances;  Miss Charity Comes to Stay for the strengths developed from being poor; and some lines from Langston Hughes’ Poem on ‘Misery and Home;’ and from Robert Louis Stephenson’s Poems for Children ‘Rain, rain, go away.’ The presentation also has some advice for people with unusual names as Chrysanthemum and from Anne of Green Gables always the question, ‘What are you going to wear?’ 

I relate Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goeth before a fall” to the Aesop Fable:  The Eagle and the Cocks and the Cherokee tale, ‘Why the Possum Has a Skinny Tail.’ The finale is a focus on self-esteem with quotes from Jamie Lee Curtis’s I’m Gonna Like Me:  Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem and Nancy Carlson’s I Like Me!.  I end with the meditation from the Skin Horse to The Velveteen Rabbit about what it means to be real.

Preschool Teacher becomes University President

“My unlikely story is of someone who was never expected to go to college, became a preschool teacher and through various career opportunities became the first woman president of the University of Memphis. Highlights of the speech were featured in the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.” (The speech has been given to civic groups, to a philosophy society, and to the Tennessee Women’s Economic Summit).

Words of Wisdom for Teachers of Young Children

Longer Training Sessions & Presentations:


  • Story S-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-r-s: Using Children's Favorite Books to Integrate the Curriculum
  • From Pink Purse to Briefcase: For Women Educational Leaders
  • STEM Activities - Birds, Butterflies, Bees, and Bugs


Retreats for Boards, Preconference Presentations, Education Organizations:

  • Building an Effective Team in Your Education Setting
  • Leadership in Education Organizations, Facing Changes and Challenges
  • Beyond Ideas to Actions

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