University of Montevallo’s Shackelford dies

Published 1:19 pm Wednesday, July 27, 2011



Beloved, long-time University of Montevallo Director of Public Relations Cynthia Shackelford has died.

Shackelford, 59, died Wednesday morning, following an illness.

Cynthia Shackelford

“Cynthia has been a member of the University family for many years and will be missed by all of us, but especially by those with whom she worked in the Department of Public Relations,” said John W. Stewart, University of Montevallo president. “Cynthia’s legacy is the many publications, articles, announcements and news releases she prepared on behalf of her beloved Montevallo. By and through her work, her memory will live on.”

By all accounts, Shackelford, who began her work in July 1993, was the University of Montevallo’s greatest advocate.

“It’s a tremendous loss for Montevallo and I feel very sad for the students who aren’t going to know her and get a chance to learn from her,” said David Clemons, who recently was named publisher at the Fort Payne, Ala., Times-Journal. Clemons is moving to his Fort Payne job after serving as publisher at the Walton Tribune in Monroe, Ga., where he was contacted on Wednesday afternoon.

Clemons is a Montevallo graduate and was editor of The Alabamian, the University of Montevallo’s student newspaper, from 2000-2002. Shackelford was advisor to The Alabamian.

“She was a mentor to me. She supported me when it wasn’t really easy to do so,” Clemons said. “As a young journalist, you can imagine the mistakes I made. She was very patient and taught me through all of them.”

He said Shackelford was an advocate for an independent student newspaper, meaning one that isn’t controlled by a journalism class or faculty, but rather the students who work to publish it.

“She was so well thought of by so many at Montevallo. She loved it very much. She loved to visit other newspapers across the state and tell them Montevallo’s story,” Clemons said. “Cynthia was like many others on the faculty and staff at Montevallo in that she didn’t forget the students after graduation. She and her colleagues in the public relations office kept up with all of us through the years. She was family to us and that’s why today hurts so much.”

Justin Averette, managing editor at The Clanton Advertiser, also considers Shackelford a mentor. Averette is a 2006 graduate of the University of Montevallo and was editor of The Alabamian from 2003-2006.

“Cynthia was perhaps the best story teller I’ve ever met,” he said. “She had a very interesting life and when she would tell stories, she would just captivate everyone around her.”

Averette said Shackelford loved the Montevallo community and knew as much about its history as anyone.

“She would lead the ghost walks around Montevallo every year and enthralled the people with the stories she would tell,” he said.

Shackelford came to Montevallo from the University of Mississippi for Women, where she was working in public relations. She graduated from that school in 1974 and later earned her master’s degree from the University of Alabama. Shackelford grew up in Columbus, Miss.

“Cynthia was a very generous person. She had a wealth of experience and always made time to share that,” Averette said. “She was an incredibly busy woman, but always made time for students to share advice and listen to them.”

Averette continued to rely on Shackelford after graduating from Montevallo, calling her often to seek advice.

“After I got out into the real world, if I had a sticky or tricky situation, as recently as earlier this year, I would still reach out to her for advice,” he said. “Outside of journalism, she helped me and other students, too, in so many ways. She really cared for her students.”

Averette suffered a fall late one night at Montevallo, in his sophomore year of college, breaking his shoulder.

“I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have a car and didn’t know what to do, so I called Cynthia,” he said.

Shackelford drove Averette to the emergency room at Shelby Baptist and stayed with him through the night and took him home after he was discharged, he said.

“I’m sure so many other students could say similar things. One summer when my car was broken down, she let me borrow hers for a week so I could go to work at Wal-Mart,” Averette said. “I will miss her so much. She was a good friend.”

Shackelford was hospitalized Feb. 27 for an illness from which she never fully recovered.

More information will be provided as funeral arrangements are finalized.