Stephen B. Sherpard
Class of 1961
When Stephen B. Shepard was 65 and contemplating a dramatic career change, he said that his new job would combine three things about which he cared deeply: journalism, public education and New York City. That was in 2004, and the challenge, coming at an age when most men of his generation were ready to retire, was to become the founding dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, the first publicly supported master’s program in journalism in the northeastern United States. The job he was leaving was as editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek, the largest business magazine in the world.
Earlier in his career, Shepard had been editor of the Saturday Review and a senior editor for national affairs at Newsweek. He had amassed a remarkable record of achievement and honors, including a Townsend Harris Medal awarded by the College in 1990. He was president of the American Society of Magazine Editors from 1992 to 1994. In 1999, he was inducted into that organization’s Hall of Fame and received the Gerald M. Loeb Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award for business journalism. The following year, he was presented with the Henry Johnson Fisher Award, the highest honor bestowed by the magazine industry. And in 2003, the Overseas Press Club gave him its President’s Award.
Shepard, who was born in the Bronx on July 30, 1939, was himself a product of the city’s public schools. He attended the Bronx High School of Science before entering CCNY, where he would major in engineering and earn a B.S., but would harbor a hidden desire to be a journalist. He fed that yearning by taking courses given by Professor Irving Rosenthal, the college’s one-man journalism department, and writing articles and editorials for Vector, the engineering school’s quarterly magazine. In Shepard’s senior year, Vector was voted the best college science magazine in the country. Upon graduation, Shepard went to work for an engineering company in New Jersey while taking post-graduate engineering courses at Columbia University at night. In 1963, still working on his degree, he left his job at the engineering company when he was accepted for an editorial training program at McGraw-Hill that led to a position on one of the company’s magazines, Product Engineering. He got his M.S. in 1964, and by that time, Shepard’s career path was clear. From then on, it would be journalism.
In 1966, Shepard was hired as a writer by BusinessWeek, also a McGraw-Hill publication, and remained there until 1975. During that period, he began teaching at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (1971 to 1976). He was co-founder and director of the school’s prestigious Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economic and Business Journalism as well as a member of the school’s Board of Visitors and its curriculum reform committee.
In 1976, Shepard moved from reporting to editing when Newsweek hired him as its senior business editor and then promoted him to senior national affairs editor. He left Newsweek in 1981 and was asked to take over the Saturday Review, once a thriving general interest weekly but then a struggling monthly. A year later, the magazine folded. Shepard was beckoned back by BusinessWeek, this time as executive editor. He became editor-in-chief in 1984 and remained in that role until 2005, when he left to launch the CUNY J-school. It opened a year later. In December 2013, after leading the school to solid footing by raising $25 million in academic programs and student scholarships, Shepard stepped down. His tenure there was contemporaneous with the introduction of new technologies that forced journalism — and the teaching of it — to undergo profound changes, all of which are reflected in the title of Shepard’s 2012 memoir: “Deadlines and Disruption: My Turbulent Path From Print to Digital.”