Cover photo for Sally Shankland's Obituary
Sally Shankland Profile Photo
1956 Sally 2020

Sally Shankland

November 25, 1956 — April 20, 2020

Sally Shankland November 25, 1956 - April 20, 2020

Countless women are forever changed by their time in Sally Shankland's orbit. A smart, sassy, passionate, adventurous force, Sally returned to the stars, as she would say, on April 20, 2020, at the age of 63, in Ulster Park, NY, surrounded by her family.

A wife, mother, and a business leader, Sally lived to nurture the potential she saw in her colleagues, friends, and family. Helping others soar was her passion, and she did it with a signature brand of fun and elegant kindness. Sally's love for her family and friends sustained her throughout her life, especially after her cancer diagnosis.

Her laugh and energy were contagious, because they were real. Sally's boundless curiosity brought daily joy to her world. One of her missions was finding new ways to experience life. For a while, she carried an hourglass, because she loved the way it helped her think about how time passes. She never stopped carving her own path.

Sally was born on November 25, 1956, in Germany, to Robert and Alice Shankland. Her brother, Jim, was 20 months older. She attended school at Munich International School in Germany, and St. Stephen's School in Rome. She earned a bachelor's degree in Social Science, Summa Cum Laude, from San Francisco State University.

Sally married Rory Flanagan in New York City, in 1989. With Rory, Sally traveled widely, relishing the sunshine of quiet Antigua beach vacations. An avid runner and nature lover, Sally explored the planet with contagious zeal. She looked forward to a walking trek in Greece, planned for later this year.

Sally brought her strong, independent spirit to motherhood. She seemed infallible to her children. With equal parts persistence and vulnerability, Sally encouraged her children, Maeve and Connor, to find their best selves.

"I'm not bossy, I'm the boss" was her motto at home, but she also wanted her son and daughter to speak their minds like she did. This did not always lead to perfect harmony. After schooling her mother on "intent vs impact" one day, Sally's daughter later overheard her mother sharing her newfound wisdom on the phone with a friend. Sally learned while she led. To her son, she was deeply moral, and gained the gifts in her life through her honest efforts and hard work.

After years of living in New Jersey, Sally discovered New York's Hudson Valley, and moved with Rory to her beloved house in Ulster Park, overlooking the Hudson River. Her friendships with local contractors, painters, and plumbers created a united team that cared about her home as much as she did. Her brother Jim and his wife Leslie joined her from California, finding their second home steps from from Sally's.

In the business world, Sally was hailed as an energetic, articulate, self-disciplined and multi-faceted leader. Sally had an eagle eye for details, whether personal or professional, which enhanced her business/management success. Her cultural awareness gave her a sense of fairness and diplomacy that allowed her to maintain consistent, loyal business relationships. Her forte was her grasp of the unwritten rules for being a graceful, civil CEO.

In December 2019, due to her health, Sally stepped down as President and Chief Executive Officer at Emerald Expositions, parent company of Outdoor Retailer, a leading operator of business-to-business trade shows, conferences, content and media products. She then became Executive Director and Senior Advisor, and remained on the Board of Directors until her death.

Prior to joining Emerald, Sally held a number of executive jobs with top companies, gaining more than 35 years of business leadership experience. She was a Principal at AstraTerra LLC, a management consulting firm, President for Higher Education at McGraw Hill, a learning science and educational publishing company, and Chief Executive Officer at UBM Americas.

Sally spoke three languages, but emotional intelligence was her universal language. Never caught up in position or title, her down-to-earth, gracious approach won her as many friends as business deals. As a leadership mentor at Menttium Corporation, she generously shared wisdom from her deep well of experience with other women.

Her mentoring extended to her friends as well. One of her favorite phrases was "How can I help you?" With her brilliant gift for seeing possibility and making it happen, Sally was the person who always knew the right thing to do. Strikingly level-headed, she famously stayed calm when her friend drove them off a snowy Catskills embankment. While asking the friend in the back seat to stop screaming, Sally directed the driver out of trouble, even getting out of the car to move a huge log in their path.

Her cancer diagnosis and her attack upon the disease were classic Sally. She became the CEO of her body and her cancer. She managed her multiple symptoms, while taking work calls and meeting friends for outings. She just did it. She joked with her daughter during the darkest moments, comparing the hospital to flying first class on an airplane, with its perks and individual attention. "The only problem is, I wake up still in the hospital, and not in Paris," Sally lamented.

Sally is survived by her husband Rory Flanagan, of Ulster Park, NY, and her son Connor Flanagan, of Jersey City, NJ, her daughter Maeve Flanagan, of Brooklyn, NY, and her brother Jim (Leslie) Shankland, of Orinda, CA and Ulster Park, New York, her nephews Sam and Alex, step children Lisa Flanagan, of Brooklyn, NY and her fiancee, Dante Garcia, and Ruan (Michelle) Flanagan, of Houston, TX, and many other relatives and friends. Sally was preceded in death by her parents.

A private family graveside gathering will be held at the historic Grasmere Cemetery and Natural Burial Ground in Rhinebeck, NY. Arrangements and green burial are by Keyser Funeral & Cremation Service, Inc., Kingston, NY.

A reception and celebration of Sally's life will be hosted by the family at a later date.

As she becomes one with the earth she passionately explored,
may Sally embrace this beautiful spring, full of endless possibilities.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Sally Shankland, please visit our flower store.

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