Sheila Mary (Macnee) Spear


Jan. 16, 1941—Oct. 17, 2022

ARROWSIC, Maine—Sheila Mary Spear was a woman of the world who spent her life dedicated to education and social justice in local and global contexts.

Sheila was born on January 16, 1941, in Crewkerne, England, the daughter of Douglas Hamilton Macnee and Joan Mary (Harley) Macnee. She loved growing up in rural Somerset, where her family had moved during the war.

She became bilingual in the Queen’s English as well as the distinctive Somerset dialect and throughout her life, she had an incredible ear for the myriad of regional dialects of England. She attended local schools before attending Ackworth School in Yorkshire.

Sheila studied Economics at University College London, where she claims to have shared a lecture hall with a young Mick Jagger. While a student, she spent summers working in a frozen pea factory in Holland, and leading youth tours to Greece with the United Nations Association.

After receiving her B.Sc. in 1962, she taught at Rectory Manor School in the East End of London before getting a position with the United Nations Development Program in Dar es Salaam in 1964. Responsible for coordinating the activities of the various volunteer programs in Tanzania, she met a US Peace Corps volunteer, Thomas Spear, whom she married in 1965. When he was drafted by the US Army, she followed him to Germany, where she taught German to GIs and had her first daughter, Jennifer, in 1967.

After Germany, Sheila and Tom moved to Madison, WI, for graduate school, where Sheila studied Development Economics. During this period, her second daughter, Heather, was born in London, England, in 1971.

In 1973, the family moved to Melbourne, Australia, and Sheila switched from economics to education. She earned a Master’s in Education at Melbourne University, studying educational reform, taught at Coburg Teachers College, and served on the state of Victoria’s Curriculum Advisory Board.

When the family relocated to Williamstown, MA, in 1981, Sheila continued her educational studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and embarked on a new career in university administration, focusing on student services and international education as Assistant Dean, overseeing study abroad programs, at Williams College.

She then spent one year back in Australia, as the Sydney director for Beaver College overseas programs, and then moving to Brown University, where she was Associate Dean of the Undergraduate College and Director of International Programs.

Sheila returned to Wisconsin in 1994, where she became Director of International Student and Scholar Services, until she retired in 2002.

In Madison, she also was active volunteering for many social justice organizations, and she was especially passionate about the work of Madison-area Urban Ministry (renamed JustDane in 2020), a non-denominational, non-profit agency serving individuals and families involved in the criminal justice system.

Following retirement, Sheila and Tom moved to Arrowsic, finally settling in mid-coast Maine, where the family had been spending time for more than three decades. At the age of 77, Sheila embarked on her final career, becoming the first Town Administrator of Arrowsic, until she retired again in 2022.

She was predeceased by her parents; her older brother Ian; her younger sister , Hazel; and her new Mandy. She is survived by her husband; her daughters: Jennifer and Heather; and six nieces.

She died at home in Arrowsic, surrounded by her family, on October 17, 2022.

The family will be holding a celebration of life in spring 2023, and requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her memory to JustDane.org.

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