Formerly known as the Special Recognition Award, the Steel Award, named for former Head of School Frank Steel, honors an alumnus who, over the course of many years, has made unique contributions and shown an outstanding and extraordinary devotion to the school.
~ Written and presented by Clark Groome '60
Chestnut Hill Academy, Springside School and SCH Academy have been part of Ed Sheppard’s life for most of his 94 years. Ed’s father was a member of the Class of 1900. One of his father’s best friends, who lived at 416 West Springfield Avenue, was a member of the Class of 1901.
One day when Ed was about six years old, he was playing in that house and got trapped in the cedar closet where he was MIA for about a half hour. It is a memory he has every time he visits that house, which then belonged to Charles B. Jennings and his wife. Since 1966, Jennings House has been the official residence of all CHA Headmasters from Nat Saltonstall to Frank Steel and is currently occupied by Head of School, Steve Druggan. Ed has spent a lot of time as a guest at Jennings House, presumably avoiding any return visits to the third floor cedar closet.
After his release from his cedar prison, Ed enrolled at CHA as a boarder and as a member of the class of 1942. When the boarding department closed he went off to the Forman School and then to The Gunnery School, where he graduated in 1943.
Following graduation, he entered the army after which he was in the financial world until his retirement 31 years ago.
From the time he returned to Philadelphia, he has been one of CHA’s most involved alumni. His wife, the late Mary “Polly” Smythe, was a member of Springside’s class of 1947. Their four kids – Barbie ‘70, Ted ‘72, Linda ’74, and Rich ‘77 – all attended CHA or Springside, as did his grandchildren Jason Tschorn ’99 and Rebecca Sheppard ‘12.
Coincidently, Ed, Ted, Rich and Rebecca are all on the same five-year reunion cycle. His extended family of cousins and in-laws has also played a large part in the school’s history.
A longtime active alumnus, Ed was elected President of the Alumni Association in 1972, serving in that role for four years.
His presidency came at a particularly significant time for the Alumni Association and for the school. 1972 was the first year of Headmaster Gerrit Keator’s administration and the first year that the Alumni Association was officially part of the school, raising money for and encouraging alumni involvement with CHA rather than for the association itself.
During his tenure, the number of alumni contributing to annual giving almost doubled (from 281 to 552) and the dollars increased by 20%. More important, the number of alumni on campus for various games, shows, and alumni events increased noticeably. Ed’s leadership was outstanding and he deserves most of the credit for the improved participation and involvement of his fellow alums.
After he turned the reins over to Chas Landreth in 1976 he continued his involvement with the school – and still does to this day.
He is being honored today with the Francis Penn Steel Jr. ’77 Award, which is given to an alumnus for his extraordinary commitment and contributions to the school. It is, in short, a lifetime achievement award.
When former headmaster Gerrit Keator, who now lives in Hawaii, heard about Ed Sheppard’s honor, he wrote:
Ed and Polly were two of our earliest acquaintances when Marnie and I arrived on July 1, 1972. They were instrumental in our adjustment after having just moved from Hawaii.
It was plainly evident from day one that Ed was a dedicated Hiller, simultaneously a Light Blue and a Dark Blue regardless of his being a Light Blue student in his youth. Ed was a dedicated and spirited alumnus, a supportive parent, a very knowledgeable and respected trustee, and a faithful member and president of the Alumni Association. He has had a profound impact on the school over the 72(!!!) years since returning to Philadelphia after the War. A remarkable legacy!
The Steel Award is a well-earned and most fitting tribute to this pillar within the ranks of the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy family.
Gerrit, who has returned to Hawaii, also added Ho’omaka’i and Mahalo – Hawaiian for “congratulations” and “thank you.”
That sums it up for all of us who have had the honor and pleasure of knowing and working with this year’s Steel Award winner, Edgar M. Sheppard Jr.