By Robert Miller
A $1 million gift from Mary Alice Shepherd on behalf of her late husband, Texas Instruments pioneer Mark Shepherd Jr., will pay for a major component of the new Caruth Hall in Southern Methodist University's Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.
The Mary Alice and Mark Shepherd Jr. Atrium will be a defining interior feature for Caruth Hall. The 94-foot-high atrium will serve as both architectural focal point and a source of energy-saving sunlight for the building's top three floors.
Shepherd, who died in February 2009 at 86, led TI as it developed a global manufacturing market for semiconductors and consumer electronics. In 1948, he went to work as a project engineer for Geophysical Services Inc., which would become Texas Instruments.
By 1953, he was TI's chief engineer, and by 1962 Life magazine had named him one of the 100 most important young people in the nation. In his more than 40 years at TI, Shepherd served in a variety of leadership roles. He was head of the semiconductor team in 1958 when Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit.
Shepherd became TI's president in 1967, CEO in 1969 and retired in 1988 as company chairman.
"Mark Shepherd gave SMU invaluable guidance over the years while helping bring Dallas to prominence as a center for global trade through his inspired leadership at Texas Instruments," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. "Thanks to Mary Alice, Mark's impact on SMU and engineering education will continue through Caruth Hall's unique venue for creative collaboration."
Shepherd built a vacuum tube in his garage when he was only 6 years old and built his first radio at age 7. He finished high school early and enrolled in SMU at 14, attending on a scholarship. He graduated at 19 in 1942 with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. He earned a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1947.
Mary Alice Shepherd founded a 1,000-acre longhorn cattle ranch, Rancho de Soledad, near Quitman, Texas, which she still owns and manages. While her husband held leadership positions with TI, she traveled with him as he visited plants around the world.
SMU awarded Shepherd an honorary doctor of engineering degree in 1966. He joined the SMU board of trustees and board of governors in 1969, serving until May 1987, the same year he was given the SMU Distinguished Alumni Award. Shepherd served on Lyle School of Engineering's executive board from 2001 to 2004 and was named to the Lyle School's Hall of Leaders in 2003.
"Mark and Mary Alice's shared enthusiasm for innovation is woven into the very fabric of the Lyle School," said Geoffrey Orsak, Lyle School dean. "The atrium that carries their name will stand as testament to his vision as an engineer and his family's commitment to keeping that vision alive."