Irving A. Shepard, 97; aviation pioneer, engineer, Technion Society leader

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Irving A. Shepard, an early aviation pioneer, a mechanical and aeronautical engineer and a past president of both the local and national American Technion Society (ATS), died March 9. The cause was heart failure, family members said. Mr. Shepard was both loved and widely admired during his long business, professional and philanthropic career in the St. Louis  area.

Mr. Shepard combined deep concern for his fellow humans with seemingly limitless energy and enthusiasm. Those words were used to describe Mr. Shepard when he and his wife Sue received the 1981 Albert Einstein Award from the St. Louis Chapter of the American Society for Technion, a cause dear to his heart for many years. Mr. Shepard was president of the local ATS chapter, as well as national president of the organization, which raises funds and support for the Technion.

Jeffrey Richard, executive vice president of the American Technion Society, said in a statement that Mr. Shepard was “a dedicated and prominent leader of the American Technion Society for decades. Irving Shepard understood technology’s vital role in Israel’s future early on.” 

Mr. Shepard was a co-founder of the St. Louis Chapter of ATS, and he supported many Technion projects, including the St. Louis Advanced Aerodynamics Research Center, the Turbo Jet Engineering Laboratory, the St. Louis Region High Performance Parallel Computer, the Shepard Endowed Doctoral Fellowship and faculty recruitment. Under Mr. Shepard’s leadership, the St. Louis Chapter of ATS grew to include hundreds of loyal and active members. Mr. Shepard was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from  the Technion, which is based in Haifa, Israel.

Mr. Shepard’s passion for Technion was shared by numerous St. Louisans whom he mentored, including his niece, June K. Wolff, who with her husband, Alvin, have long been active with ATS. 

June K. Wolff said that she and her husband Alvin Wolff became quite involved with ATS as young adults due to Irving’s influence.  “I had an especially  close relationship with Irving since moving to St. Louis when I was only 17. I was proud that he often told people that I was his daughter.”
Diane G. Iskiwitch, a longtime member of the local chapter of ATS, told the  Jewish Light, “Irv Shepard had the love and gratitude of so many across the United States and Israel for his tireless dedication and enthusiasm in support of Technion and Israel, which he shared with his niece, Dr. June and her husband Alvin Wolff, and with so many of us.  I feel fortunate to have known him.  May his memory be a blessing.”

Irving Anthony Shepard was  born Feb. 25, 1918 in Willimantic, Connecticut.  He was a graduate of Tri-State University in Angola, Indiana with degrees in mechanical and aeronautical engineering. He did graduate work at the University of Buffalo, New York. A former pilot instructor and aerodynamicist at Bell Aircraft, Mr. Shepard came  to  St. Louis as assistant chief of aerodynamics at McDonnell Aircraft, and later became chief of Flight Test.  Mr. Shepard was instrumental in the design and development of the first carrier-based jet fighter.

Mr. Shepard started his first company, Shepard Engineering, in 1945 and his second firm, Precoat Metals, in 1961. Precoat was bought by Chromalloy Corporation at the time that Mr. Shepard was hired as its president and CEO.  Mr. Shepard served as Chromalloy’s president and retired as vice chairman of the board in May 1979. He was also a real estate developer, new venture syndicator and corporate consultant. He was a past president of Venture Consultants, Inc., served as a director of Cass Bank and was a popular national lecturer for the American Management Association.

Mr. Shepard and his late wife were active volunteers for the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and members of Congregation Shaare Emeth, to which they contributed a pipe organ. The Shepards were strong supporters of the Jewish Light and established the Shepard Prize, an annual essay contest for Jewish teens. Mr. Shepard was married for 60 years to the former Sue Dressner.  Mrs. Shepard died in 1999.

At the funeral service at Berger Memorial Chapel, Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman, Emeritus of Shaare Emeth, recalled Mr. Shepard’s long and happy marriage. “He married his sweetheart Sue whom he had met at his parents’ resort in the Catskills. Their 60-year marriage was a true love affair. They were two strong-willed people who adored each other, shared with and supported each other in everything.”

Others offering remembrances at Mr. Shepard’s funeral included his sons David Shepard and Andrew Shepard, and his niece, Dr. June Wolff.  Dr. Wolff offered her remarks in the form of a poem because of Mr. Shepard’s fondness for personally inspired poetry.

In his remarks, David Shepard said, “His achievements are legion, and his hurdles were high, and he never forgot where he began…I am grateful for the model of persistence, the education, for safety and shelter.  The secret of Irv’s success came out of two beliefs:  ‘Make believe that you don’t know you can’t do it,’ and ‘persistence is everything.’  I am thankful for his never having stood in my way, to explore, fail and achieve.”

Survivors include three sons, Michael Shepard (Judy Anderson) of Las Vegas;  David Shepard (Renee Kaplan) of Denver,  and Andrew Shepard (Kim Wilson) of Portland, Oregon; five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Contributions may be made to the American Technion Society: or, ATS, 111 West Washington Suite 1220, Chicago, IL. 60602. 

Following the funeral service, burial was at the New Mt. Sinai Cemetery.