Devoted, humble, and private — this is how Doug and Connie Holy describe their friend, neighbor, and son’s godparent, the late Mary Hopkinson Shepard, CCAS BA ’64, and her twin sister, the late Josephine Ross Shepard, CCAS BA ’65.
The Shepard sisters were part of a unique alumni legacy during their lifetimes: Their father, Donald D’Arcy Shepard, earned a law degree from GW in 1918, then served as attorney and tax advisor to prominent businessman Andrew W. Mellon and was one of the first trustees of the National Gallery of Art. Yet, while the Shepard family became financially successful, the sisters were raised to appreciate a private life that prioritized philanthropy.
“I helped Jo with her mail, and I often saw thank-you notes from different nonprofits,” Doug Holy said. “There was a large variety of causes — and it was the first time I learned about her support for so many charitable causes.”
This quiet demonstration of dedication wove its way through the sisters’ lives. From their steadfast commitment to friends at church to their unwavering loyalty to each other, the pair lived their lives rooted in friendship, gratitude, and love of family.
“Church was the center of their lives, where they attended service, met with their friends, and participated in the prayer shawl ministry,” noted Laura Farthing, longtime attorney for the Shepard family. “The personal touch in knitting the shawls was important to them, as love and care for their fellow being went into every stitch.”
The Shepard sisters’ legacy of gratitude continues after their lifetimes through generous gifts to GW in their estate plans. Their unprecedented estate gift, the largest single gift from degreed alumnae in the university’s history, will create the Shepard Scholarship, supporting undergraduate students with financial need, as well as the Mary Hopkinson Shepard Endowed Graduate Fellowship for Science, for graduate students in the science programs at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. A portion of Mary Shepard’s estate gift also went toward scholarships at the School of Engineering and Applied Science to support engineering students.
The Shepard Scholarship, slated to award its first recipients in the 2021-22 academic year, is a fitting way to commemorate GW’s bicentennial. As the university renews its commitment to and prioritization of need-based scholarship, it also celebrates the generations of progress GW students and alumni have achieved. The Shepard sisters stand as a testament to that progress — and to the significance of paying it forward for generations to come.