The Columns

Thomas R. Shepherd, W&L Benefactor and Emeritus Trustee, Dies at 86

— by on March 20th, 2016

Thomas Ringgold Shepherd, an emeritus trustee, alumnus and significant benefactor of Washington and Lee University, died on March 19, 2016. A resident of Stow, Massachusetts, he was 86.

Shepherd and his wife, the Rev. Nancy H. Shepherd, started W&L’s Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability in 1997. One of the university’s signal programs, it integrates academic study and learning through service and reflection; informs students about poverty and what can be done to foster human capabilities; and enables students to acquire skills and qualities of character that dispose them to serve communities and disadvantaged individuals.

The program has served as the prototype for programs at nearly two dozen institutions, which were united in 2011 as the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty.

Shepherd graduated from W&L in 1952 with a B.A. in economics. As an undergraduate, he served as president of the Sigma Chi fraternity and as secretary of the 1952 Mock Convention.

He also held an M.A. in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University and completed the executive program at the Amos Tuck School, Dartmouth College. He served on active duty with the U.S. Naval Reserves from 1952 to 1954.

Shepherd served as a W&L trustee from 1996 to 2000. Also at his alma mater, he belonged to the George Washington Society and sat on the Shepherd Poverty Advisory Board, on two of his reunion class committees, as a SPEAK volunteer, and on area committees for two capital campaigns, chairing one of the latter.

During Shepherd’s business career, he served as a director of Berkshire Wireless Inc., Community Resource Systems Inc., 4R Systems Inc., MyUtility.com, Rayovac Corp., Vermont Teddy Bear Co., Amerace Corp., General Nutrition Companies Inc., Playtex Family Products Corp., PNC-New England, Signature Brands Inc. and Thermoscan Inc. He was treasurer of the Fieldstone Foundation Inc. and chair of the Shepherd Group.

As an independent consultant from 1986 to 1998, he served as managing director of the Thomas H. Lee Co., Boston. From 1983 to 1986, Shepherd was president of GTE (Sylvania) Lighting Products.

In addition to Washington and Lee, his many philanthropic interests included the United Way, Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corp., several land trusts and other nonprofits.

In 2006, both Tom and Nancy Shepherd received honorary doctor of law degrees from Washington and Lee University in recognition of their “commitments to social justice and dedication to public service.”

Among his survivors are his wife, the Rev. Nancy Shepherd, and four children, Ruth H. Shepherd, Katharine G. Shepherd, Elizabeth S. Beneche and T. Nathanael Shepherd.

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