When Steve Sheppard came to Drury, golf was "a minor sport," he says. But Sheppard was a major talent. "He was one of those rare individuals who had a real natural swing," recalled teammate Don Deeds, now a Drury biology professor. "He was not a flashy player, but a very composed and steady and smart player." In straightforward style, Sheppard worked his way through four outstanding years as a Drury golfer, helping lead the team to district championships and a spot in the NAIA national tournaments his sophomore and junior years. In the summer of 1970 his score in one tournament was three strokes ahead of a now-well-known golfer: Tom Watson.
Sheppard and his teammates-Deeds, George Thompson III, Dennis "Skip" Talley, Victor Cox and Fred Gorelick-were successful together, and Sheppard still remembers them as a team. But Deeds says Sheppard "was by far the single most consistent and best player on the team." Replies Sheppard: "It was an unusual mix of camaraderie and competition."
Camaraderie and competition drove the team to academic success too. "All of my teammates were serious students," Sheppard says, "we all pushed each other along." Sheppard, Deeds, Gorelick, and Thompson all graduated magna or summa cum laude. "Academics, not athletics, was the dominant force in my life at Drury," says Sheppard. "It was clear athletics was something we were privileged to do in college, but none of us was going to make a living at it." That attitude is especially notable considering that Sheppard came to Drury an accomplished golfer, but an intellectual blank slate. "I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do when I got to college," he laughs. He thought about engineering, then settled on a double major in economics and sociology. From Drury he headed to Oklahoma State University for graduate work in economics. Then he headed for the big time: New York City, and a job with Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. (now KPMG-Peat Marwick), one of the world's largest accounting and consulting firms. Four years later, and now a certified public accountant, he was transferred to Dallas, a "high-flying place" in the early 1980's says Sheppard.
After a few years Sheppard left Peat Marwick to become chief financial officer for a real estate development-contracting-brokerage organization in Dallas. Then "the market began to crash, in conjunction with the savings and loan fiasco." Sheppard re-established contact with friends in Springfield, helping them find investment-quality real estate in Springfield's still-healthy market. So much of his business was in the Ozarks, he decided to move back in 1986. A large office building across the street from Cox Medical Center South in Springfield was one of his many projects.
He changed gears again in the early 1990's, moving into health care. At first he managed a large eye surgery clinic in Springfield. But his sights broadened when he joined Medical Consulting Group, Inc. (www.medcgroup.com) and began strategic planning for clients across the United States, many referred to the company by Bausch & Lomb Surgical.
While Sheppard's work may seem to follow a winding path, a backward glance leads clearly to Drury. "My career has always had a strong financial component," notes the economics major. But the tools to meet new challenges in his life also came from Drury: "I had been exposed to so many disciplines, it made moving from A to B a little easier to do." And it's OK with him that academics came before athletics. "That's the way it should be done."