Anna Williams Shavers, 75, Cline Williams Professor of Citizenship Law and associate dean for diversity and inclusion in the College of Law, died Jan. 22.
A tireless advocate for inclusion and justice, Shavers served as a member of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty since 1989. Her primary area of interest was immigration and its intersections with gender issues.
Richard Moberly, dean of the College of Law, said Shavers left a lasting impact on generations of Huskers. He also said he will miss Shavers' guidance, which has helped the college navigate many societal challenges.
“She listened, she guided, she pushed — and her work made us all better,” Moberly said. “I certainly was not done learning from her and it is tragic she was taken from us before her work here was finished. But, I know we are all better for having known Anna and I feel fortunate to have been able to benefit from her courage and kindness.”
Shavers was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a teen, she was among a small group of Black students selected as the first to integrate into Little Rock’s Hall High School.
She went on to earn a Bachelor of Science from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, and a Master of Science in Business from the University of Wisconsin. Shavers earned a Juris Doctor (cum laude) from the University of Minnesota, where she served as managing editor of the Minnesota Law Review. She was admitted to the Minnesota bar in 1979 and the Nebraska bar in 1989. She remained an active member of the Nebraska State Bar Association until her death.
Prior to coming to Nebraska, Shavers practiced law in Minnesota. She also served as an associate clinical professor at the University of Minnesota, where she established that university’s first immigration law clinic.
Minnesota Law mourns the passing of @UNLCollegeofLaw Professor Anna W. Shavers '79, a champion of diversity who began her academic career at #MinnesotaLaw and founded the Law School's first immigration law clinic. https://t.co/7IOIQlhLiq pic.twitter.com/DODLCb0ECl
— University of Minnesota Law School (@UofMNLawSchool) January 25, 2022
At Nebraska, Shavers served in a number of roles from the classroom to administration, including interim/acting dean for the College of Law; diversity and inclusion subcommittee chair on the N150 commission; co-chair of the university’s Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking Planning Team; and a co-leader of the university’s Journey for Anti-Racism and Racial Equity
Shavers was a strong advocate for inclusion, dedicating much of her distinguished career to making sure everyone felt valued and supported. In 2017 Shavers was recognized by the College of Law’s Dean’s Advisory Board with the Distinguished Faculty Award for her work in supporting the College’s mission and furthering her teaching and research. In 2020 she received both the Nebraska State Bar Association’s Diversity Award and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Chancellor’s Fulfilling the Dream Award for her efforts to make the state’s legal profession and our university as inclusive as possible.
In a Jan. 24 tweet, Chancellor Ronnie Green praised Shavers for her work in the classroom and as a leader.
Mourning the passing of @UNLCollegeofLaw long-time scholar and educator Anna Shavers, a leader in too many ways to chronicle in the @UNLincoln family and community. Very hard to say goodbye to you, friend. May you Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/J43VhvKM8a
— Ronnie D. Green (@RonnieDGreen) January 24, 2022
As a professor, Shavers believed that she had found the position for which she was ideally suited. She loved working directly with students, expanding understanding of the legal system, and appreciating the differences of people from various cultures.
She was faculty co-adviser for the Multi-Cultural Legal Society and Black Law Student Association, faculty adviser for the Muslim Law Student Association and the Anti-Trafficking Legal Advocacy Society, section delegate and former chair of the American Bar Association’s Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice and a board member of the Midwestern People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference.
Shavers also maintained active membership in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, participating in the organization’s Delta Days discussing her research, legal issues and providing mentorship.
In a remembrance released Jan. 24, the co-leaders of the university’s Journey for Anti-Racism and Racial Equity described Shavers as a “truth speaker” and credited her for her compassion, brilliance, humor, and dedication to serving others.
“Anna Shavers remains our compass,” the co-leaders wrote. “She deposited in us both the outrage against racism, discrimination and injustice, and a commitment to do all she can to fight these forces.
“We are committed to letting our efforts to form this consortium carry on fiercely and intensely to honor her.”
Colleagues near and far also responded to Shavers' death.
Across a heartfelt, 14-tweet thread, Chris Walker, law professor at Ohio State University, honored Shavers for her career, dedication to the field of law, and ability to connect personally with others.
Her impact on the fields of administrative law and immigration as well as on the legal profession was profound and indisputable. But for those of us who were fortunate to know her well, her personal impact on our lives was arguably more profound.
— Chris Walker (@chris_j_walker) January 24, 2022
Stacy Leeds, a professor of law at Arizona State University, was thankful for knowing Shavers and her support through the years.
Professor Anna Shavers was one of the great ones. She extended her hand to the next generation - in other fields, at other law schools. I am the beneficiary of her kindness. Rest well. https://t.co/UG1jusPFjU
— Stacy Leeds (@stacyleeds) January 24, 2022
In multiple tweets, Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, a law professor at Penn State University who delivered Nebraska's E.N. Thompson lecture on Nov. 2, 2021, praised Shavers for her pioneering work in immigration law and being a herald for diversity, equity and inclusion.
Of the many gifts Anna Shavers started the first immigration clinic at UMN. Rest in Power. https://t.co/57NaDQ4uXn
— Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia (@shobawadhia) January 25, 2022
And, the reverberations of Shavers' passing were especially passionate at Dear Old Nebraska U.
Anna Shavers was a beloved member of our University, Lincoln community, and state. Her spirit, intellect, and leadership will live on and her advocacy for equity and inclusion will continue to inspire me. To my fellow Arkansan, Husker, exemplar, and adviser, thank you. pic.twitter.com/ipNqPIyNqx
— Marco Barker, PhD (@DrMarcoBarker) January 24, 2022
To say we mourn her loss is an understatement. Dean Shavers was the heart of our law school in so many ways, and I will miss her beyond measure. https://t.co/aCwElDW8nV
— Jessica A. Shoemaker (@ShoemakerJess) January 24, 2022
I deeply appreciated Dr. Shaver’s. She was a genuine & true scholar, advancing so much within our institution. It is my hope a scholarship and memorial represents all that she’s done at UNL ☺️
— Marianna Burks (@Burkscognition) January 25, 2022
I am incredibly saddened by the loss of my wonderful colleague. Anna was kind and generous and brought so much wisdom and experience to us all. I am a better person for having known her, and she will be sorely missed as a friend, colleague, and mentor. https://t.co/eEepSLj0fV
— Adam Thimmesch (@AdamThimmesch) January 24, 2022
Shavers was a frequent national and international presenter on immigration, human trafficking and administrative law issues. She was able to travel the world and taught law courses in numerous locations, including Lithuania, Uganda and Cambridge, England.
She is survived by her husband, Stanley Shavers; daughter, Amber Shavers; sister, Dollie Jones; sister-in-law, Sammie Holmes; and nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life service, which will be available live via Zoom, is 5 p.m. Jan. 27 at the College of Law.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Anna Shavers Scholarship Fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation, 1010 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, NE, 68508.
Condolences may be left online with the family obituary