In Memoriam: Shelley Taylor

The Miss America Organization honors the memory of Shelley Taylor, Executive Director of the Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant. A much loved and dedicated volunteer for over 30 years and the 2014 Miss America Academy of Honor Award Recipient. She was truly committed to the Miss America program and its mission of empowering young women through education.
Shelley began volunteering for the Miss Michigan Organization in the mid 1970’s. Through the years, she held various positions that ultimately led her to being named the Miss Michigan Executive Director in 2006.

Shelley worked tirelessly to bring sponsors and new scholarship awards to the Miss Michigan Scholarship Program. She always sought ways to improve the organization and worked to introduce new local competitions, as well as new contestants to this worthwhile opportunity.

The Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant has celebrated several Miss Americas and the program continued to achieve under Shelley’s dedicated leadership. Miss America 1939 Patricia Donnelly Harris, Nancy Anne Fleming Lange (1961), Pam Eldred (1970), Kaye Lani Rae Rafko Wilson (1988), Kirsten Haglund (2008), and Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen 2006 Nina Davuluri went on to win the Miss New York title and ultimately became Miss America 2014.

In 2014, Shelley was recognized on the Miss America stage for her tremendous leadership and selfless support of the Miss America Organization by being awarded with the 2014 Miss America Academy of Honor Award, a special annual recognition for a volunteer with at least 20 years of outstanding success and accomplishment.

Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, Miss America 1988:
“Our friendship spanned over 30 years…It is hard to imagine the Miss Michigan Program without her. For almost 40 years, Shelley has been supporting, guiding, and embracing the young women of Miss Michigan and the people of the Miss America Organization. She treated every contestant as “her girl” and made us all feel so very special when we were with her. She nurtured our Miss Michigan Program like a family. Her friendship, leadership, and the many gifts she shared with all of us here in Michigan and throughout The Miss America Organization will always be remembered and treasured.”

Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989 and MAO Executive Chair & CEO:
“The Miss America family has lost a dear and most beloved friend.  We are comforted in the selfless love Shelley expressed towards everyone she met, especially the incredible women, volunteers, and staff of the Miss America Organization.  Shelley has positively impacted this organization and she will continue to reach countless lives each and every day because of her tireless dedication.  Thank you Shelley Taylor for your leadership, friendship, and love.”

Kirsten Haglund, Miss America 2008:
“Shelley’s love, warmth, and sassy spirit were evident to all who knew her. She was a constant source of encouragement to me, throughout my time competing in the Miss America Organization and in the years following. A dear friend to my entire family, she will remembered for her steadfast belief in the importance of giving back, self-sacrifice, and commitment. I will miss Shelley’s courageous attitude and positivity, and know that her legacy will live on in Michigan and continue to inspire others to servant leadership.”

Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014:
“I met Shelley when I was 16 years old competing in the Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen program. From the beginning, there was never a dull moment with her! She cheered me on at MAOTeen, came to my high school graduation, watched me from the sidelines as I went to college and encouraged me to find my true self and grow into the woman I was meant to be. She was one of my biggest supporters and mentors. During my last year competing at Miss New York, she encouraged me to express myself and embrace my culture and heritage. The funny thing about Shelley is that every time I went to her with a problem, she would never offer a solution, but would make me work through every possible outcome and choose a path for myself. During my year as Miss America, Shelley was one person I could always count on to give it to me straight in the most comical way. Catching up with her was always a treat! Her love for people was endless and she was there for me and my family during the happiest and most difficult of times. Thank you Shelley for giving your heart and soul to all of us and this program. You truly helped me become the person I am today and I am forever grateful for your love and guidance. Your legacy continues to live on through myself and the countless young women you have touched. We love you dear friend. Until we meet again.”

About The Miss America Organization (MAO)
The Miss America Organization, a 501(c)4 non-profit organization, oversees a national network of 51 organizations, including all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Miss America contestants contribute tens of thousands of community service hours annually and have raised over $16 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Miss America scholarships since 2007.