Shepherds’ gift makes a difference in the lives of students

April 23, 2015

Circumstances after World War II prevented R. Herschel Shepherd from finishing college. Almost 50 years later, as a successful businessman, Shepherd and his wife, Augusta, established an endowment with the Emporia State University Foundation to help other young people facing a similar predicament.

As a result, 12 Shepherd Scholars were presented their awards today at the Sauder Alumni Center.

The students ate lunch with Augusta Shepherd and her family before a reception and presentation ceremony, which was open to family, friends and community. Herschel, who died March 27, 2001, at the age of 81, and Augusta Shepherd were parents of three children — Joyce French, Judy Hawkins and Jim Shepherd.

“It’s one of the nicest things I’ve ever been involved with, and it’s all my parents,” said French, who lives in Emporia “It’s just a joy to see the talent the students are showing, what they’re doing, the abilities they have, their hard work and how they’re making use of it. It’s so exciting to see where they’re going to be.”

French’s father had attended the University of Missouri and Kansas State Teachers College (now Emporia State University) before joining the National Guard and subsequently the U.S. Army during World War II. He graduated from Officer Candidate School, was in the initial landing at Anzio, Italy, fought in the African campaigns, and was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

After the war, returning to college was not an option; however, helping other young college students did become an opportunity he and his wife chose to take.

“My dad never had the money to go on. He got started but never finished,” French said. “That’s the basis behind this, to give them the push to get through.”

After the war, Shepherd worked briefly for the Skelly Oil Co. before founding the R.H. Shepherd Oil Company in Admire in 1947. He later owned and operated S&S Oil & Propane Company and the Admire Bank, which he moved from Admire to Emporia. He also had interests in several banks in Missouri and California.

The Shepherds decided to settle their gift on junior students who had completed 60 credit hours and are high academic achievers.

“The Shepherds’ gift already has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of Emporia State students and will continue to do so well into the future,” said Emporia State President Dr. Michael D. Shonrock. “Their dedication to the university and its students touches everyone’s hearts. The university is privileged to be part of their exceptional story.”

French said the Shepherd Scholars have been remarkable, not only in their major fields of study but in their other interests and abilities.

“They’re diverse — from opera to athletics,” she said. “Some of them have so many varied talents. Somebody’s major may be science and yet they’re so proficient in foreign language. ... They are just excelling wherever they go, it seems.”

The Shepherd Scholars program not only rewards and empowers the students, but affects the entire campus, according to Dr. Gary Wyatt, associate provost, director of the Honors College, and professor of sociology, anthropology, crime and delinquency studies.

“Something that brings out the best in the students is really a treasure, and that’s clearly what I think this is,” Wyatt said.

He explained that the scholarship is a goal that students aspire to achieve, and the reward for their hard work is apparent to the entire campus.

“They become kind of a leavening influence for everybody else,” Wyatt said. “We’re so grateful to the Shepherds for doing this.”

The annual event is an enriching experience for the Shepherd family as well. French said they enjoy getting to know the scholars’ families and witness the professors’ enthusiasm as they and the university president highlight each scholars’ talents and accomplishments during the reception and ceremony.

“It just makes your heart sing to think about them, and giving them a boost,” she said.

Shepherd Scholars for 2015-16, their hometowns and major study areas are:

  • Emporia: Benjamin Kerbs, biology; Tyler Huddleston, communication; Janet Weaver, psychology; Chelsea Litfin, art
  • Halstead: Peyton Wingert, mathematics
  • Kansas City: Brian Mosier, mathematics
  • Newton: Olivia Henning, music education
  • Olathe: Isabella Khatri, modern language; Madeline Malley, Olathe
  • Prairie Village: Derek Wilson, sociology
  • Reading: Abbey Davies, English
  • Topeka: Jeana Johnson, mathematics

The Now & Forever campaign supports student scholarships, academic departments and initiatives that advance Emporia State’s mission to recruit students, teach and retain them, encourage them to graduate with lower levels of student debt, and ultimately put them on a path to a solid career.

For more information about Now & Forever giving opportunities, contact DenaSue Potestio, Emporia State University Foundation president/CEO,, 620-341-5440.