Shirley Pooler Kinsey grew up in St. Augustine, FL. The major influence in her life was her paternal grandmother, Mrs. Susie Plummer Pooler, who raised her and who quietly and humbly led by example and went about living her life doing whatever she could to be of service to others. She didn’t have much materially and she willingly shared what she had; her wisdom, her heart and her time. This was passed on to Shirley, as well as the desire to excel in education as a way of doing well by doing good.
Other important influences in her life were Barbara Richardson Johnson, her sister/cousin and role model, Mr. James A. Webster, uncle and principal of her elementary school and Mrs. Rosalie R. Gordon-Mills, mentor and her high school guidance counselor. Barbara was an encouraging force through out high school and college as she exemplified how to be a lady. Mr. Webster spurred an interest in art and travel, as he was an artist and knew Jacob Lawrence, Zora Neale Hurston and Sarah Vaughn among others. He would send post cards from all the exciting places and cultures he encountered while traveling abroad.
Mrs. Gordon-Mills sparked an interest in books, academic excellence and reaching toward the future. Shirley was valedictorian of her graduating high school class, leading to a scholarship to Florida A&M University, her pledging Delta Sigma Theta, Beta Alpha Chapter in 1965. Shirley has had careers in both education and corporate America and most importantly she is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, aunt and friend.
Meeting at FAMU during the height of the civil rights movement of the 60’s, Shirley and Bernard were wed and moved to California with $26 and a job. Their 46-year marriage and partnership represents an alliance based on love, respect and the importance of family and friends. They strive to live their lives on two simple principles: “To whom much is given, much is required” and “A life of no regrets”. Together they have helped raise over 22 million dollars for charitable and educational institutions, including Florida A&M University. They believe in the idea of “social capital” that utilizes their broad network of friends and associates around the country to expand the notion of giving. They are both proud graduates of Florida A&M University and have advanced degrees from Pepperdine University. Shirley has a Masters Degree in Multi-Cultural Education.
They are known for their collection of African American Art, books and
manuscripts, that document and tell the remarkable story of African American triumphs and struggles from 1604 to the present. The Kinsey collection: “Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey – Where Art and History Intersect”, has been on national tour since 2006 and has been on exhibit in 14 museums to date, including the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and Epcot at Walt Disney World. In 2008, the couple created the Bernard and Shirley Kinsey Foundation for the Arts and Education to promote education and understanding of African American history and culture through the exhibition of their personal treasures. Their coffee table book serves as a companion to the exhibit and was recently adopted by the Florida Department of Education as part of their African American history curriculum for grades K-12 statewide.
The Kinseys have traveled extensively and reside in Pacific Palisades, California. They are the proud parents of their son Khalil. It has been said that, “Together they have formed an outstanding partnership in their cultural, business and educational endeavors. They represent the best of our community, a willingness to give and to share”.