Carole Shander, 79, a public relations executive and consultant for cable television networks, who loved her friends and fashion, died of metastatic breast cancer Wednesday, Nov. 13, at home in Bryn Mawr, Pa.
During her 50-year career in public relations, Shander met numerous entertainers, actors and directors. She kept a photo taken with Omar Sharif when she was promoting American Movie Classics.
One memorable celebrity encounter, though, happened before she was a publicist. In October 1965, she was working as a ranger giving tours at Independence National Historical Park when Stevie Wonder visited the Liberty Bell. The then 15-year-old was in Philadelphia to perform in a Motown Revue.
Shander placed the blind singer’s hands on the bell and traced his fingers over the crack. A photograph of Shander in her Park Service uniform and Stevie Wonder at the bell was published in The Philadelphia Tribune.
“I thought I would get in trouble because I had on boots instead of the pumps we were supposed to wear,“ she told friends. Carole Shander was always pushing fashion boundaries.
Born in Philadelphia to Ribby Doner Shander and Irving Shander, Carole Shander grew up in Wynnefield with her younger brother Ira. In January 1958 she graduated from Overbrook High School. She attended the University of Pennsylvania as a journalism major on a Philadelphia Board of Education scholarship. Ruth Waldman Schultz, a friend from childhood and a Penn classmate, said Shander took extra courses to graduate a semester early in June 1961.
After leaving the Park Service, Shander worked in public relations at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Then for seven years she was director of development and communication for the Philadelphia Bar Association.
From 1981 to 1994 she held various corporate communications positions with Cablevision Systems Corp. in New York. She then was a consultant for cable networks. From 2001 to 2006 she was vice president of public relations for Court TV Network.
From 2006 until retiring in her early 70s, Shander consulted for cable networks including A&E, The History Channel, The Biography Channel and History en Espanol.
In the 1990s she offered a “PR 101” course at Insight Communications to young publicists. In an interview in 1998 for Multichannel News, Shander said, “We’re trying to teach them that they are the ambassadors of a new age for cable.” She told her students they needed to get to know their local beat reporters. Good cable network publicists, she said, can get reporters to detail service improvements and programming additions early in the stories, while rate increases are mentioned lower.
She advised, “Call reporters back promptly and tell them all that you can, but always be truthful. If you can't comment, let them know that, too.”
At Penn, Shander , who never married, and Ruth Schultz were Delta Phi Epsilon sorority sisters. “At sorority reunions,” Schultz said, “women would get up and talk about their children. Carole would say she had no children but mentoring young people gave her a great sense of joy.” The young people included Schultz’s four daughters and cable industry men and women who went on to have very successful careers.
While at Cablevision Ms. Shander hired Ed Carroll to promote Bravo TV. “I thought Ed had a lot of talent,” she told friends. Carroll is now COO of AMC Networks Inc., overseeing all operations. He was instrumental in developing original series such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead.
Shander also hired Barry Rosenberg when she was with Cablevision. He went on to become vice president of communications for Bravo and Oxygen Media.
“Carole had an extraordinary gift for making friends," her brother, Ira, said. “She befriended neighbors, the cashier at the supermarket, her doctors and nurses, the vendors in stores where she shopped, the young and old alike.”
Shander enjoyed travel abroad with her brother and with friends; reading books about social history and shopping for stylish clothes, shoes, bags and jewelry.
“Her fashion sense was legendary, as was her pursuit of beautiful clothes at bargain prices,“ Ruth Schultz said. “ She was a fashion icon, always on the edge of haute couture. She wore it all flawlessly and inspired legions of devotees.”
“Also,” Schultz said, “She was considered an aunt to her friends’ children and followed them through their lives as their confidant and cheerleader.”
Her brother, Ira, survives. Services were private. Donations may be made to the Abramson Center for Jewish Life, 1425 Horsham Rd., North Wales, PA, 19454.
Story contributed by Sally A. Downey.