REV. ROBERT D. SHEPPARD, A. M., D. D.

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 35-37

REV. ROBERT D. SHEPPARD, A. M., D. D.   The world has produced many able scholars, eloquent speakers and capable business men, but it is very rarely that nature simultaneously endows a single individual with those compound qualities of mind and heart which by proper cultivation and development enable him to become at once a ripe scholar, an eminent instructor, a profound theologian, a popular pastor and a successful financier.   The man who succeeds in fitting himself for satisfactory work in any one of these capacities is entitled to considerable credit, but the time and patient application which are exhausted in so doing usually preclude the attainment of other noteworthy accomplishments.  Therefore, he who has mastered not only one, but all, of the professions enumerated above, and that during an existence of less than half a century, must be termed a phenomenal character, and a brief outline of his comprehensive life work can not fail to interest the public with which he has been almost constantly brought in contact.

Robert Dickinson Sheppard was born in Chicago, July 23, 1846.  His father, Robert Sheppard, was a native of Dundee, Scotland, and came to America in 1830.  He first located in Buffalo, but five years later became a resident of Chicago, where the balance of his life was spent.  He was one of the first building contractors of the city, and later became prominently identified with its lumber interests.  He was an early member of the Clark Street Methodist Church, and erected the first brick building occupied by that society, at the southeast corner of Clark and Washington Streets.  This edifice was built exclusively for purposes of worship, but was afterward replaced by a commercial block, the building which occupied that site at the time of the great fire.  He was one of those Christian gentlemen of the Caledonian race who are numbered among the pioneers of Chicago, and whose influence is still apparent in the business and social life of the city.  His wife, Mrs. Samantha Sheppard, who was one of the earliest teachers of Cook County, still survives, at the venerable age of eighty-three years.  She is the daughter of Zenas Dickinson, a native of Granby, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, who came to Illinois with his family in 1835.  The Dickinson family is of English lineage, and many generations of that name have resided in the Connecticut Valley.  Many of the most influential men and women of that region have borne that cognomen.

The marked characteristics of both parents seem to have been impressed upon the son, who enjoyed the best educational advantages to be had in Chicago.  After completing the course at the Chicago High School, he became a student at the Northwestern University, and still later at the Chicago University, from which he graduated in 1869.  He had resolved in youth to devote his life to the interests of the church, and his vacations had been mostly spent in the study of theology, so that a single year at Garrett Biblical Institute was sufficient to complete his preparation for the ministry.

Immediately after his ordination in 1870, he joined the Rock River Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was successively assigned to the pastorates of the Michigan Avenue Church, Chicago; the Third Street Church of Rockford, Illinois; and the Western Avenue Church, Chicago.  In the fall of 1877 he went abroad, and spent the following year in study and travel through Europe and the East, thereby broadening his field of knowledge and preparing himself for further and greater usefulness.  Upon his return he was assigned to Grace Church, Chicago, where he remained for three years.  After an equal period spent as pastor of the First Church of Aurora, Illinois, he was recalled to Grace Church, the last pulpit which he filled as a regular charge.  The thorough and efficient manner in which he applied himself to his ecclesiastical duties, and the appreciation of the same manifested by his parishioners, can be judged by the fact that he was retained in nearly every charge to which he was assigned for the full period of time allowed by the regulations of the Methodist discipline.

On the 13th of June, 1872, Mr. Sheppard was married to Miss Virginia Loring, daughter of Nahum Loring, another Cook County pioneer, who engaged in mercantile business at Naperville in the days when that town rivalled [sic] Chicago in commercial importance.  Four interesting offspring, named, respectively, Robert Loring, Marguerita, Virginia and Dorothea, complete the family of Mr. and Mrs. Sheppard.

In 1872 the Chicago University conferred the degree of Master of Arts upon Mr. Sheppard, an honor which was duplicated three years later by the Northwestern University.  In 1878 he was appointed a Trustee of the latter institution, and he has filled the same position for Garrett Biblical Institute since 1884.  Since that date he has held the chair of history and political economy in the Northwestern University, though the first year was spent in foreign travel and study, under a leave of absence generously granted him by the Directors.  In 1892 the Board displayed its confidence in his ability and integrity by appointing him Treasurer and Financial Agent of the university.  In the management of its business affairs he has shown a degree of judgment and discernment seldom met with in men not fitted for such responsibilities by long years of careful discipline, and the remarkable progress of the institution is largely due to his energetic and farseeing business policy.

The intellectual resources displayed by Mr. Sheppard could only be developed in a person of extraordinary physical vigor and endurance, and it is almost needless to state that he is the picture of health and strength.  Naturally of pleasing address and engaging manner, he has not neglected to cultivate his social instincts, and is never too much absorbed in business or professional cares to give just consideration and attention to every caller.  While distinguished for his own originality, he is always on the alert for the reception of advanced ideas and improved methods, his ample experience and ready discrimination enabling him to grasp and accept, or reject, a proposition almost instantly.  A conviction once formed by him is not easily shaken, and he is zealous and eloquent in its enunciation.  His residence, now nearing completion, is one of the most attractive objects bordering the famous Sheridan Road, and his home constitutes one of the chief social centers of the university and of the city of Evanston.

                                -- Submitted by Sherri Hessick   (slhessick@crosswinds.net)