A Pell City resident who dedicated her life to helping others through higher education and volunteer work died Tuesday.

Virginia “Jenny” Gauld died Tuesday morning at St. Vincent’s in Trussville. She had been at the hospital for a month due to an illness, her family said. She was 79.

Gauld, who was born and raised in Alabama and lived in several different cities, was living in Anniston in 1961 when she gave birth to one of her daughters, Lee Shafer (who is now the rector at Anniston’s Grace Episcopal Church). Gauld devoted much of her life to her work at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the YWCA.

“It was an area where she felt she could do the most service for people,” Shafer said by phone Friday.

She started at UAB in 1977 as a coordinator for special studies. Cindy Holmes, Gauld’s executive assistant for about 22 years, said Gauld was able to continuously move up the executive ladder.

“She was phenomenal at whatever she did,” Holmes said.

For the last 16 years of Gauld’s career she worked as UAB’s first female vice president, overseeing student affairs.

In 1986 Gauld joined the board of the Birmingham YWCA and in 1990 became the board’s first president to work outside of home, in a time when other women board members either didn’t have the opportunity to work outside the home or had careers that took up too much time, according to Suzanne Durham, a former CEO of the organization.  

After her 2006 retirement from UAB, Gauld and her husband, Ernest, moved to Pell City, where she remained active in the YWCA. There, she expanded the group’s shelter services for Blount and St. Clair counties and helped to raise money.

At UAB, Gauld is remembered with the Virginia D. Gauld National Alumni Society Endowed Scholarship. The YWCA honors her in the name of Our Place, a shelter in St. Clair County for victims of domestic violence. She preferred it not be called a shelter so that victims wouldn’t feel humiliation in saying they were staying in a place for victims of domestic violence shelter; and Gauld declined to have it called “Jenny’s Place.”

She is survived by her husband of 40 years, Ernest W. Gauld, three daughters, two sons, and many grandchildren. (One son, Richard W. Gauld, preceded her in death.)

A memorial service will be held to honor the life of Virginia D. Gauld at 2 p.m. April 29 at the Beacon, First United Methodist Church, 2200 Third Ave. N., in Pell City. Memorial gifts may be given to the YWCA, www.ywcabham.org, 309 23rd St. N., Birmingham, AL 35203 or First United Methodist Church, 2200 Third Ave. N., Pell City, AL 35215.