(Above) The lawn and wall in front of McMurran Hall overlooking downtown Shepherdstown have been a favorite hangout for generations of students and townsfolk.
Shepherd University welcomed its first students in September 1871. Incorporated as Shepherd College by a group of Shepherdstown residents, the college held classes for 42 students, both men and women, in McMurran Hall (image on cover); the building had been vacated earlier that year when the government offices of Jefferson County were moved back to Charles Town. The initial mission of the school was to train teachers and, by February 1872, the West Virginia legislature formally recognized the college as a branch of the state normal school.
The teaching school expanded slowly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, growing to fill the downtown Shepherdstown block bounded by German, King, High and Princess Streets with buildings for classrooms, dormitories and a gymnasium. By July 1930, enrollment had grown to 641 students and Shepherd became a four-year teachers’ college. The following year, 18 students received the first Bachelor of Arts degrees bearing the institution’s new name of Shepherdstown State Teachers College.
In 1943, the college expanded to teach a broader liberal arts curriculum and returned to the Shepherd College name. The college also continued to increase its physical footprint as the east campus filled in between downtown and the Potomac River. Land for what would eventually become the west campus, totaling approximately 164 acres, was donated in 1964. The grounds of the school were united in 2013 when a new walkway below Route 480 created a dedicated pedestrian link between both sides of the campus.
In 2004, Shepherd College began a new chapter in its history and became Shepherd University. Drawing students from West Virginia, the US, and around the world, the university now offers various undergraduate degrees in arts and sciences, (including a B.A. in Music in Performance and B.S. in Nursing), Masters degrees (including Appalachian Studies, Teaching, and Business Administration), and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
During the pandemic year of 2020-2021, the university continued classroom operations with a mix of online and in-person instruction for its 3,159 enrolled students. For the fall semester of 2021, the university is resuming traditional on-campus instruction for all classes.
This year also marks the 150th anniversary for Shepherd. As the University resumes classes for the 2021-22 academic year, Dr Hendrix, the current university president, noted the anniversary milestone and remarked on the recent challenges: “At Shepherd University, we remain optimistically committed to training the next generation of leaders and model citizens by listening to the needs of our community, looking at ways to adapt to our changing landscape, and learning from the faculty, students, and staff employees who came before us. This is the essence of our theme for the 150th anniversary: Honoring the Past. Transforming the Future. Shepherd’s resilience during adverse times in its history has only served to make the institution and its people stronger. Employing creative, problem-solving approaches to issues that Shepherd has faced has created a University that is nimble enough to confront and implement change in order to address challenges, whether related to health pandemics, enrollment downturns, or changing demographics. Flexibility helps assure sustainability. The University has overcome these challenges, one by one — and become stronger in their wake.”
The Campus is Open to the Community
Over the past 150 years, Shepherd University has expanded from a single downtown block to several hundred acres. The University is a welcoming campus, with many programs and activities open to community members and visitors — music concerts, theater performance, lectures on history, politics & current events, sports contest, creative writing, guest lecturers — are just a partial list of the opportunities available to the public.Steve Pearson