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Shirley Gibson ’94

November, 4, 2021, in San Francisco, California, from cancer.

In the words of her husband, Tim Pori, Shirley knew that the secret to happiness was in making other people happy. Thoughtful, caring, and compassionate, she put others before herself, and did it with a wicked sense of humor. She was a smart, dedicated attorney who wore Wonder Woman Converse high-tops to the office where she fought against displacement and for fair and affordable housing for low-income tenants throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer approximately 11 years ago, she fought the disease without complaint or fear of death, continuing to the end to extend kindness, energy, and dedication to the people and causes she cared about.

As an undergraduate at Reed, Shirley wrote her thesis, “The Lonely Epidemic: AIDS and the U.S. Political-Cultural Revolution,” on the then-raging AIDS epidemic, with Prof. Darius Rejali [political science 1989–2021] advising. After graduating, she moved to San Francisco and met Tim in a local all-night diner where Shirley was waiting tables. Tim was driving for Yellow Cab. They were married in 1997.

Shirley earned a JD from New College of California School of Law in San Francisco, where she was managing editor of the law journal. She interned at the Homeless Action Center in Berkeley and worked for the AIDS Health Project.

Beginning her career as a public interest attorney with the Eviction Defense Collaborative, she helped pilot San Francisco’s day-of-court representation program for unrepresented tenants in settlement conferences and the Family Eviction Prevention Consortium rental assistance program. She also worked alongside her husband, Tim Pori, in his firm, representing plaintiffs in civil rights cases. In 2007, Shirley joined the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County to develop their housing practice and eviction defense program, rising to become the directing attorney of their housing unit in 2011, a capacity in which she served for the rest of her career. The Western Center on Law and Poverty recognized her extraordinary contributions to social justice in the arena of housing stability for low-income tenants and homeowners with the Mary Burdick Advocacy Award in 2019.

The daughter of a Unitarian Universalist minister, Shirley was a dedicated member of First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco for nearly 25 years. The church presented her with its Rheiner Award “for devoting her legal career to advocating for low-income tenants seeking to maintain safe, adequate, and affordable housing in some of the most affluent communities in the world.” She died peacefully at home, surrounded by the family that survives her, including her husband, Tim; children, Georgia Pori ’22 and Milo; parents, Judith and Gordon Gibson; stepdaughter, Katelyn Steele; and sister, Robin Gibson Roysdon.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2022

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