As he walks to his office along the Champs-Élysées, Jim Shephard ’80 marvels at how well his UO experiences primed him for a high-flying career in global finance—one that exceeds anything he imagined when he arrived on campus as a freshman.
“The support I got from my professors was invaluable in allowing me to succeed,” said the North Eugene High graduate, now CEO of AIG Asset Management (Europe) Limited.
“My family encouraged me and pushed me but I didn’t have role models to follow because nobody had gone to college before.”
Now, as one of the UO Foundation’s first international trustees, Jim works on many levels to help ensure that future generations of UO students will have the same kind of life-changing experiences that he did.
He’s proud that the university has a “very powerful” international presence.
“If we want to remain a premier, world-class research institution, we have to continue growing our international footprint,” he said.
Jim rallies fellow Ducks to the cause by helping host alumni gatherings in Europe.
“I think there’s a passion among UO alumni,” he said. “Our experience here contributes to that. This is an absolutely fantastic place to be a student.”
Jim earned his bachelor’s degree in humanities from the UO’s Robert D. Clark Honors College, where his professors encouraged him to tailor his studies to his interests. As a result, he was able to study medieval French maritime law while captaining a commercial fishing boat off the Oregon coast for much of his first three years in college.
Mentors like Robert Grudin, professor emeritus of English, helped Jim develop confidence and encouraged him to spend his junior year studying at Poitiers. After graduation, he returned to Poitiers on a Fulbright and earned two master’s degrees. All of this prepared him for success at Tulane University’s law school and his ensuing career.
Today Jim leads the drive to transform Chapman Hall into a state-of-the-art home for the honors college, helps create opportunities for UO students at elite institutions such as Oxford, and contributes ideas for strengthening the university’s future by serving on the provost’s advisory council.
He and his wife, Florence, also help by funding scholarships to bring international students to campus and allow UO students to go overseas.
Last year, one of the first Shephard Family Scholars received a Goldwater Scholarship.
“It’s proof of the fantastic things that our international students can do, and how much they contribute to our life on campus,” he said.
Jim believes the passion that UO alumni share for the university is its biggest asset—and he’s confident the best is yet to come.
“The new governing board gives the UO a governance structure that will provide more financial flexibility and inspire donors to be more generous,” he said. “I really think that most donors are motivated by a desire to help the next generation to succeed.”