A self-effacing scholar and nationally known expert in the field of early childhood education, Shirley Moore left her mark on the University of Minnesota, where she co-founded and served as co-director of the Center for Early Education and ­Development.

A nursery school at the U was renamed the Shirley G. Moore Laboratory School when she retired in 1987.

A longtime professor at the U's Institute of Child Development, Moore, 91, died Dec. 7, leaving a legacy of research and wisdom on working with preschoolers, whom she ­nourished through the center she helped create. It brought together faculty from various disciplines and others who worked with children, including doctors, psychologists and social workers.

Moore, who was known among her colleagues for her warmth and wit, never ­married or had children. She'd have done both if she was starting out today, she told Judy Hynes, wife of Chad Hynes, her nephew. "She said back in those days in the '50s, you could have a career like she did, or have kids."

Moore was a senior at the University of Chicago in 1944 and became an apprentice at the university lab school.

"I had to survive the disasters faced by virtually all new teachers," she recalled in an article she wrote. The "most traumatic" one occurred when she volunteered to supervise the nap room.

"When several of the gutsier 4-year-olds began acting out, having failed to recognize me as an authority figure worth a darn, I was helpless. Other kids followed suit and in no time the noise was overwhelming. The head teacher came back, announced in a now-hear-this tone of voice that every man Jack of them was to 'do just what Shirley tells you to,' and things settled down.

"I smarted over the ­incident for a few days, alternately between hatred for the little beasts and doubt about my future as a teacher, but decided that I too could learn to make civil, but firm now-hear-this noises, so I stayed. By the end of that month I was hooked!"

She wrote that she saw kids "happily engaged" and "problem children" changing before her eyes.

At the U nursery school, "She had this way of instruction [of teachers] and being a mentor without demeaning the individual she was supervising," said Richard Weinberg, former director of the Institute of Child Development, who co-founded the Center for Early Education with Moore.

She was great in class getting kids doing different things at the same time, said Willard Hartup, a retired regents professor.

Moore wrote a column on research and practice for a journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, said Lynn Galle, retired director of the Moore Laboratory School. She also co-authored a 1973 book, "Contemporary Preschool Education: A ­Program for Young Children."

A memorial service is set for 2 p.m., Dec. 19 at Gearty-Delmore Funeral Chapel, 15800 37th Av. N., in Plymouth with visitation at 1 p.m.