Regent and education trailblazer Don Shalvey dies at 79

Don Shalvey

Don Shalvey

Donald Shalvey, a long-time member of the University of the Pacific Board of Regents, champion of charter schools and national educational leader for more than a half century, died Saturday. He was 79.

Shalvey was remembered as a devoted educator who worked fervently to create learning opportunities for all students.

“For more than 50 years Don has been dedicated to students of all ages and their success. His leadership has helped transform our public school and charter school systems,” said Regents Chair Mary-Elizabeth Eberhardt. “His guidance as chairman of the Committee on Regents and his input regarding our students’ success and education has been incredibly valuable. His big heart, hearty laugh and contributions to Pacific will be missed.”

Shalvey was founder and CEO of Aspire Public Schools in San Joaquin County and throughout California. In 1992, as superintendent of San Carlos School District, he sponsored the first charter school in California.

“Don Shalvey was a visionary education leader who had a profound positive impact on students, teachers and families.” - Pacific President Christopher Callahan

From 2009 to 2020, Shalvey was Deputy Director for K-12 Education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In that role, he oversaw charter schools, teacher preparation and school and system leadership.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside Don on the Board of Regents. He brings to every engagement his unmatched experience in educational leadership, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a laser-like focus on what’s best for students,” said Norman Allen ’88, ’94, former Chair of the Board of Regents. “All that, plus a genuine kindness and warmth that lights up the room. He’s one of a kind.”

In recent years, he focused on the quality of education in San Joaquin County K-12 schools as CEO of San Joaquin A+, an agency that works to improve classroom performance by all students. Shalvey was noted for his teaching innovation.

Don Shalvey at the opening of Calaveras Hall in

Shalvey (center) at the opening of Calaveras Hall on the Stockton Campus in 2018. 

One example is the recent Pacific Prep program, where students from two Stockton Aspire high schools took a specially designed Pacific college engineering course—taught by School of Engineering and Computer Science Dean Elizabeth Orwin—for which they earned college credit. The idea for Pacific Prep came from Shalvey, who joined the Regents in 2015.

“Locally, regionally and nationally, Don Shalvey was a visionary education leader who had a profound positive impact on students, teachers and families,” Pacific President Christopher Callahan said. “He also was an invaluable Regent who helped steer our university and was the inspiration for our highly successful Pacific Prep program.”

The president added, “On a personal note, Don and Sue were among the very first people to welcome us to the Central Valley community with their genuine warmth and caring. They made Pacific and our region feel like home for Jean and me right away. I will miss not only his great expertise in education and passion for Pacific, but his friendship.”

Don Shalvey celebrates commencement in 2017.

Shalvey with Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy Dean Berit Gundersen at University of the Pacific's 2017 commencement. 

Shalvey earned a doctor of education degree in educational leadership and administration from University of Southern California, a master’s of education in counseling and guidance from Gonzaga University and a bachelor’s degree from LaSalle University.

Some of Shalvey’s accomplishments include:

  • Led the formation of Californians for Public School Excellence with entrepreneur Reed Hastings
  • Helped lead the passage of the Charter Schools Act of 1998
  • Received an honorary doctorate from Pacific in 2010
  • Received the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for advancing the quality of life of Californians
  • Was elected to the Charter School Hall of Fame in 2009

He is survived by his wife Sue, who also is a lifelong educator, and has two children: Megan, Growth Lead for Air Tutors, and Brian, a veteran.

The Don and Sue Shalvey Endowed Scholarship, established in 2019, is a merit-based scholarship for students in the Conservatory of Music, with a preference for students from San Joaquin County. To contribute, contact Scott Biedermann ’05, ’20, vice president for development and alumni relations, at 209.946.2166 or