Shirley Bennett (née Edwards) is a graduate of Greendale Community College and also the proprietor of the campus eatery "Shirley's Sandwiches". She enrolled not long after her divorce from her husband Andre who had left her and their children for a stripper named Mysti. Her goal at school was to take business courses which would help her market her baked goods to the masses. During her time at Greendale she became close friends with her study group. In her sophomore year she reconciled with her husband Andre and had another child with him. In her third year at school Shirley remarried Andre and also went into business with her fellow study group member Pierce Hawthorne. After four years she graduated with honors earning a business degree. Not long afterwards she made a few bad financial decisions which hurt her family and led to another separation from her husband. An unexpected reunion with her study group made her decide to reenroll at Greendale to become a better business women. Shirley also joined the "Save Greendale Committee" to improve life on campus and successfully reopened her sandwich shop in the cafeteria. She is portrayed by actress Yvette Nicole Brown.
Shirley is a devout Baptist and is the most religious member of the study group whose surface good-natured personality belies some thinly-veiled rage issues ("Pilot"). While she is proud to be an African American woman and a mother she tries not to be defined by just those characteristics. Her age is something she is very sensitive about as she is one of the older study group members and often tries to prove to them that she is still relevant ("The Science of Illusion"). She becomes the "mother hen" of the group often offering unwanted advice or opinions to the other members ("Comparative Religion"). She admits to having a gossiping problem, one which has cost her past relationships by needlessly stirring the pot between her friends ("Social Psychology"). It's been suggested by the study group that she also has a baking problem and tries too hard to be liked by baking goods for everyone ("Remedial Chaos Theory"). She often struggles with tolerance for the other faiths of the non-Christian members of the study group ("Comparative Religion"). She has gone as far as trying to covertly baptize Annie (who is Jewish) at a pool party and suggested they baptize Abed (who is Muslim) while he was in a catatonic state ("Biology 101").
Shirley is invited to a Spanish study group by Abed along with a few other classmates. Although she discovers it's fake, she and the rest of the members decide to form a real one. She spends the year struggling to accept the fact her marriage is over and trying to build a new life while balancing the responsibilities left over from her old one. She eventually manages to juggle both her academic life and personal life all while trying to fit in with her new friends in the study group. She becomes close to Britta but comes into conflict with Pierce on a few occasions. The end of the year sees her supporting Britta bid for Tranny Queen and trying to offer the younger woman some advice on her relationship with Jeff.
"The Politics of Human Sexuality": Shirley and Britta help Annie break into the Deans office so she can get a good look at a anatomically correct statue she is supposed to put a condom on as part of a presentation at the STD Fair.
In Shirley's second year at Greendale she and the study group take Anthropology together. A crazy Halloween party at the beginning of the semester sees Shirley and Ben Chang having a one night stand although due to outside influences they have no memory of the incident. Shirley reconciles with her ex-husband Andre Bennett and they start dating. Her past history as an alcoholic is revealed when the study group celebrates Troy's birthday at a bar she used to frequent. She discovers she is pregnant and that due to evidence Troy presents to her, Ben Chang may be the father and not Andre. At the end of the year she gives birth in the Anthropology classroom and the baby's true parentage is revealed. She later takes a vote along with the rest of the study group on whether or not Pierce should be asked to rejoin them in the next semester. In the western themed end of the year school picnic, Shirley participates in what was to be a quick paintball game which turned into an all out war against Greendale's rival school City College. She successfully triggers a trap inside the school's library which eliminates a lot of the invaders. Later, she and Britta using the Campus security patrol cart launch a last ditch assault on the City College machine gun post and succeed in taking out but are unfortunately also eliminated themselves form the game.
"Anthropology 101": Shirley is happy that Jeff and Britta seem to be dating now and reveals to the study group how the couple hooked up during the paintball competition the previous year.
"The Psychology of Letting Go": Shirley is clearly upset that Annie and Britta are working on a project together and didn't include her in it .
"Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples": Shirley's attempt to get Abed interested in working on a religious youtube video for her church inspires him to make the ultimate meta film.
"Epidemiology": The students at the school Halloween party become infected and crazed chasing Ben Chang and Shirley into the library restroom. The two share a moment and have sex but a government cover up erases their memories of the incident.
"Aerodynamics of Gender": Shirley, Britta, Annie and Abed take a Women's studies course and run afoul of Meghan and her mean girl clique. Thanks to Abed the Mean Girls are overthrown and the quartet takes their place as the new clique to be feared.
"Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking": Pierce plays mind games with the study group pretending to be on his death bed and bequeathing them things to mess with them. He gives Shirley what he claims is a candid recording of the study group mocking her.
"For A Few Paintballs More": A City College VS Greendale College paintball war errupts and Shirley joins Troy's commando unit to spring a trap for the invaders. Later, with the help of Britta and the Campus security patrol cart, Shirley makes a last ditch assault on City Colleges paintball machine gun nest.
In Shirley's third year at Greendale, she and the study group are taking Biology class together. She discovers a shared history she has with Jeff which had a profound impact on both of them. She later helps Abed out by participating in a celebrity impersonator Bar Mitzvah in order to cancel out his debt to Vinnie. Andre proposes to her and they get remmarried in an imptomptu ceremony while at the same time she becomes partners with Pierce in a proposed sandwich shop thanks to the encouragement of Britta. Towards the end of the year, she and the study group are expelled form school thanks to Ben Chang's machinations. Once she is reinstated, she and Pierce are given the go ahead by Dean Pelton to open up "Shirley's Sandwiches" in the school cafeteria. However, Pierce takes her to "Greendale Summer Court" in order to be named sole owner of the shop. Jeff represents her against his old colleage Alan Conner who is representing Pierce. Jeff delivers a patented "Winger speech" that settles the dispute.
"Competitive Ecology": When the study group tries to pair off for Biology lab partners, Shirley discovers she's the member of the study group that no one one to be partners with when Abed uses it popularity to determine who should be paired off together.
"First Chang Dynasty": As part of the plan to rescue Dean Pelton and take down Chang's regime at school, Shirley infiltrates Chang's brithday party dressed as a male baker who delivers his birthday cake.
"Introduction to Finality": Shirley and Pierce have a dispute over their new sandwich shop and Jeff ends up having to represent her in "Greendale Summer Court" when Pierce decides to sue her for sole ownership.
In Shirley's fourth year at Greendale, she is now running the Sandwich shop while finishing up her business studies at the school. She and the study group are taking History 101 after a registration snafu forces them to abandon their plans on taking another class called "History of Ice Cream". She invites the study goup to attend her Thanksgiving Day dinner with her in-laws. After Ben Chang returns to the campus claiming to have amnesia, she hires him as a worker at Shirley's Sandwiches. It's later discovered that she and Annie are both in contention for valedictorian which causes some tension between the two of them. This is also shown when she and Annie compete to find the perfect date for Abed to go to the Sadie Hawkins dance with. Although nervous about taking a P.E.E. class with Troy she soon finds her experience as a mother has made her a natural P.E. Coach. When Abed investigates the study group members interconnected origins he uncovers a connection between Jeff and Shirley. Back when Jeff was a lawyer he defended a stripper named Mysti who also happened to be the same woman Andre cheated on Shirley with. Towards the end of the school year Shirley, along with the rest of the study group, celebrates Jeff's graduation in a ceremony held inside Group Study Room F.
After graduation, Shirley focused too much on her failing business so Andre left her and took the kids. Once Jeff accepted a teaching job at Greendale, Shirley re-enrolled along with the study group intent on becoming a better business women. Shirley talked Abed through his latest mental breakdown and joined a special "Save Greendale Committee". She reopened "Shirley's Sandwiches" and profited during the "Ass Crack Bandit" crisis. Shirley passed the news of Pierce Hawthorne's death onto her friends and participated in a polygraph investigation into it led by a Mr.Stone. When the inquest finished, Shirley is bequeathed Pierce's time share in Florida along with a canister of his sperm. Shirley created a safe haven from a campus wide game of "Hot Lava" called "Shirley's Island" and says goodbye to a departing Troy. Afterwards, Shirley becomes a popular figure at school thanks to a status ranking app. Later, She and the committee try to move stolen merchandise and helped Buzz Hickey reconnect with his son Hank. When Greendale is about to be sold to the Subway corporation, Shirley and the committee tries to save the school. She helps distract Chang, Richie and Carl while the others continue the mission. She and Buzz are interrogated by a "psychic" Richie. When the school is saved, Shirley joined in on an impromptu celebration that broke out in the cafeteria.
"Basic Intergluteal Numismatics": Shirley re-opens a newly revamped Shirley's sandwiches, manages to profit from the Ass Crack Bandit attacks due to a no change policy and gets some bad news about Pierce.
"Cooperative Polygraphy": Shirley and the study group agree to take a polygraph test in order to receive their bequeathals from Pierce's will. It's revealed Shirley served Britta, a vegetarian, a meat based tofu.
"Geothermal Escapism": During a campus wide game of "Hot Lava", Shirley builds a sanctuary from the competition in the cafeteria called "Shirley's Island".
And you know, hallelujah and church and singing and street wisdom...
–Shirley and Elroy
School year synopsis
Shirley was unable to re-enroll for another year at Greendale as her had become ill father and she had to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia to care for him. While she was away she left Britta in charge of her sandwich shop as accepted a new job as a personal chef for a private investigator named Mister Butcher. Although he was confined to a wheel chair Butcher was an accomplished local sleuth. Along with her cooking duties Shirley also assisted him on a few of his cases. Despite his success he was haunted by the one case he never solved involving his missing wife. Shirley had to deal with Butcher's constant depression over this which even led him to attempting suicide several times. Shirley continually reminded him of all the good he's done in solving other cases. She also assured him she'd help him until he found his wife or regained the use of his legs. At the end of the school year at Greendale, uncertainty about the future had the Save Greendale committee thinking about what to expect fir the next semester. In a few scenarios each member imagined Shirley had rejoined the group. Abed imagined she would resume her role as the sassy mother hen if the group. In Dean Pelton version, Shirley and Elroy Patashnik had stereotypical roles as the token African-Americans on the committee.
Some time after saving Greendale from becoming a Sandwich University, Shirley left Colorado to care for her ailing father in Atlanta, Georgia. Leaving Shirley's Sandwiches in the care of Britta, Shirley took a job as personal cook to a lawyer.
Jeff and ShirleyIn their freshmen year together, the two bond while gossiping over Britta's then-relationship with Vaughn ("Social Psychology"). In the spirit of the holiday season, she also tries to persuade Jeff not to fight Mike the campus bully ("Comparative Religion"). In their third year at school together, they learn about a shared history together ("Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism"). When Shirley was twelve years old she bullied a ten-year-old Jeff during a foosball game. This incident had a profound effect on both of them as Shirley realized she went too far, gave up bullying and became a more caring person. They have made peace with each other over the past and have since developed a close relationship ("Origins of Vampire Mythology").
As the more compassionate members of the study group, they often take issue with many of the morally ambiguous antics of their friends. Because she is the youngest of the group, Shirley is often overprotective of her which sometimes annoys Annie (along with Shirley's various attempts to convert her to Christianity). Shirley for her part is sometimes annoyed when Annie unintentionally reminds her of their age difference as she is one of the older mebers of the study group. In spite of this, they have developed a good friendship and will often find the same things adorable. This leads to them both saying "Aww!" at the same time which has become a running gag on the show. They also have a secret handshake first shown in "Communication Studies".
Like the other study group members, Shirley treats Abed in a motherly way. She is often unsure of what to make of Abed, and is often annoyed by his childish antics. She also questions the true nature of his relationship to Troy which has become a running gag on the show. Although impressed with Abed's powers of observation and skill as a filmmaker she is shown to be wary of it, especially when he goes too far with his abilities. In their second year together at Greendale, Abed was inspired by Shirley to shoot a religious film but took his meta concept too far and made an overproduced mess. Shirley helped him salvage his reputation by destroying his film and in the process the two came to a better understanding of each other.
Britta and Shirley get along very well despite some major differences of opinions. Britta's Athiestic beliefs sometimes annoys Shirley who is devout in her Christian faith. Even so, Britta was protective of her friend when she reunited with her ex-husband not wanting her to be hurt again and put aside her own discomfort with marriage to help Shirley plan her wedding to Andre. Shirley for her part was supportive of Britta when dealing with her romantic issues with Jeff and also taught her the importance of women bonding in the restroom. Their close friendship was demonstrated when they both gravitated towards each other when given a choice of who to be lab partners with in Biology.
After leaving Greendale, Shirley makes Britta manager of Shirley's Sandwiches.
Shirley has a strained relationship with Pierce and tries her best to put up with him. She recognizes that his racist and bigoted comments are done not out of hate but due to his own ignorance. In their first year together at Greendale he made unwanted advances towards her but he eventually lost interest. As the oldest members of the group they often find themselves left out of the younger members activities. Pierce's villainous actions in their second year at school led to Shirley and the rest of the study group, except Annie, to vote him out ("A Fistful of Paintballs"). After meditating all summer at a religious retreat, Pierce returned with a friendlier attitude, and Shirley welcomed him back to the study group. Later in their third year, Pierce and Shirley form a business partnership and open a Sandwich shop at Greendale
Shirley mother hens Troy as much as she does the rest of the study group and is often put off by how close he is with Abed. It is later hinted that the two could see themselves as sexual options ("Romantic Expressionism"). Troy once proposed a secret alliance between the two of them to win the 2010 Paintball Assassin game before being eliminated ("Modern Warfare"). In their Sophomore year together at Greendale, Troy learned through a voice mail Chang sent him that he and Shirley might have hooked up during the Halloween no one could remember and kept it to himself until he could verify it ("Epidemiology"). When battle lines were drawn between Troy and Abed in their Pillow and Blanket war, Shirley joined Troy's and told her husband Andre it was so that "Britta doesn't put him on the weed."
Shirley spent the entire first year at Greendale single often referencing her ex-husband in a negative light. In her Sophomore year, Shirley reconciled with Andre. She learned she was pregnant but the baby's parentage was in question when it's learned she had slept with Chang around the same time she reunited with her husband. Nevertheless, Andre made it clear to her that no matter who the father was he would not abandon her again and would be the father to the child. It was later confirmed that he was indeed the father. In Shirley's third year at school, Andre proposed to her again and she accepted. They were remarried in a quick ceremony in Group Study Room F. After her graduation the relationship began to sour again. Shirley devoted too much of her time to her sandwich shop while ignoring her family. Eventually Andre separated from her again taking the kids with him this time after her business failed and put them in debt.
Elijah, Jordan, and Ben are the children of Shirley and Andre Bennett. Although they are rambunctious and seem uncaring, both Elijah and Jordan have demonstrated that they have Shirley's kindness and compassion. Ellijah is named after the prophet and Jordan is named after Micheal Jordan the famous basketball player. Ben is the youngest child and his parentage came into question when it was discovered that Shirley had a brief fling with Chang. When Shirley went into premature labor during Anthropology class, Britta and Chang helped Shirley deliver the child safely. Chang conceded the baby couldn't be his child since all Chang baby's are born with tails and he didn't have one. To thank him for helping her through the birth Shirley named the child after him.
In her first year at Greendale, Shirley was good friends with Gary, a student from Finland known for being a buzz-kill and a generally unpleasant person to be around. Nevertheless, Shirley considered him a good friend and would often try to get him included in study group's activities. He ended up transferring at the end of the year much to the celebration of everyone but Shirley.
Shirley is the third main character to leave the show. Actress Yvette Nicole Brown was allowed to drop out of Season Six to take care of her ailing father. Shirley has appeared in 97 episodes of "Community".
Shirley's favorite movie is Doc Hollywood.
Prior to her first year, Shirley had a drinking problem.
In the Community College Chronicles, Shirley is played by Dioni Snyder.