The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Jon Shepard Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

January 23, 2015


Jon H. Shepard was born in 1941 in Weiser, Idaho. Shepard's family moved often during his early years, ultimately settling in Kennewick, Washington once Jon was of school age. Shepard became interested in insects, especially butterflies, as a junior high school student, and read every book about butterflies that he could find. Near the end of his high school years, Shepard moved to Yakima, Washington where he took a variety of college preparation classes.

After one term at Washington State University and two years at a community college, Shepard enrolled at Oregon State College in 1961. Shepard was drawn to OSC in large part because it offered him the freedom to study butterflies as an Biology major. He also participated in the school's Honors Program, writing an honors thesis - which was later published - on a genus of blue butterflies. As an undergraduate, he likewise conducted bibliographic work on asilid flies in support of an Oregon State Entomology professor, Charles Martin. During weekends, he often drove up to Western Washington University, in Bellingham, Washington, to visit his sweetheart, Sigrid.

Shepard graduated from OSU in 1963, completing an honors bachelor's of science degree in Biology. He and Sigrid were married not long afterward. That fall, Shepard began graduate studies at WSU. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, Shepard studied a method called numerical taxonomy as it applied to a family of blowflies. He finished his Entomology master's degree in 1965.

From there, Shepard and his wife moved to Stanford University, where Jon began work on a Ph.D. The couple left Stanford after one year, relocating to Nelson, British Columbia in 1966 to teach at a Catholic liberal arts college. They remained in Nelson until the summer of 1968, when Jon resumed doctoral studies, this time at the University of California-Berkeley's Division of Entomology. Shepard completed his coursework in pursuit of his Ph.D., but left the program before finishing his dissertation.

In 1972 the Shepards returned to Nelson, B.C., which they used as their home base for more than forty years. During this time, Jon carved out a career in lepidoptery, teaching at community colleges, serving as a sabbatical replacement for various colleagues, and engaging in contract work. He also pursued his own research and collecting agendas, and in 1974 he became the regional coordinator for the Season Summer Lepidoptera Society, a position that he still holds today. Sigrid Shepard also kept busy during the Nelson years - she helped to organize a labor union in the mid-1970s and published a cookbook in 1979.

Over the ensuing decades, Shepard continued to research butterflies all across the Pacific Northwest. In the early 1990s, he worked with the James Entomological Collection at WSU, and in the late 1990s he joined a group of Northwest lepidopterists known as The Evergreen Aurelians. He published a book, The Butterflies of British Columbia in 2001, which received the Alcuin Citation for Excellence in Book Design that year. At the time of its publication, he was working as a biodiversity consultant and entomologist. He also taught and researched at several different schools.

Shepard's interests shifted toward moths in the early 2000s. He spent much of decade collaborating on the Pacific Northwest Moths Collection, a massive project managed out of Western Washington University - in 2012, the collection finally opened to the public. Two years later, in the summer of 2014, Shepard and his wife moved to Corvallis after more than forty years in Nelson. Once arrived, Jon quickly became involved with the Oregon State Arthropod Collection, working as a volunteer curator and donating his own personal collection to the repository.