Remembering Michael Shiro

Posted on October 29, 2021

In Memoriam, 1962 - 2021

middle age asian man with hair pulled back into a ponytail sitting on a motorcycle

ITVS Controller Michael Shiro died of cancer on October 22. He joined the organization as a consultant in 1998 to help with an annual audit and stuck around, commuting to the office on one of the 14 vintage motorcycles in his collection. A CPA with a Big Six accounting firm and nonprofit experience, Michael helped ITVS grow in the aughts and beyond. He and his close colleague and friend, accountant Van Soohoo, welcomed new co-workers who allowed them to focus less on things like four site relocations and more on finance. 

Michael brought analytical acumen, ethical rigor and humor to the sober business of managing the federal public funds that supported 1,000-plus independent documentary filmmakers over his tenure. He ensured that artists could create by building trust in ITVS’ financial systems and reporting. “Michael knew what was important to ITVS and fiercely protected it by shaping and enforcing policy when it may not have been the easiest path forward,” said John Cheng, ITVS CFO. “We owe the team's stellar reputation in large part to his diligence and professionalism.” 

There was nil chance that Michael, a Chuck Taylors-clad embodiment of integrity and soul, a painter and lifelong Ocean Beach surfer, would blend in with the DC suits who visited ITVS in 2009 for a routine Office of the Inspector General (IG) audit. But he earned their respect over the two-month process. And the squeegee-clean audit report lives on in the not-so-humble brags of the ITVS board and leaders. Sally Jo Fifer, president and CEO, recalled one of her most vivid memories: “beholding Michael in action with our IG auditor.” 

“Michael never failed to put his best work and self behind our mission,” said Garry Denny, board chair and director of programming at PBS Wisconsin. “We’re incredibly indebted for his dedicated service.”

His first ITVS supervisor and champion, Judy Tam, and other colleagues knew Michael as the guy who would drop whatever he was doing to make and build human connections. Through his own example he would encourage people to do what they love, by all means root for the Giants and the 49ers, and to cling to, in his words, “nature and art, and art of nature.”

His imprint will forever be a part of ITVS. 

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