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1984 Horatio Alger Award Winner

Mark Shepherd, Jr.*


"Everyone has special gifts from God. The challenge is to use those gifts well, on the field and when the game is over."

Mark Shepherd was born in Dallas, Texas. His father was a policeman and his mother operated a small gift shop. When Shepherd was seven, his father became ill and was forced to retire from the police department, and his mother gave up her job to care for him. When their savings were exhausted, the family moved to a farm and Sheperd learned to raise cotton, tomatoes, and chickens. He also earned extra money mowing lawns and working in a grocery store. "We were poor as church mice," he says, "but we didn't know it. We grew a lot of our food and all our neighbors helped each other. The Depression was hard on people, but I think we were better off than those who lived in town."

Shepherd graduated from high school at the age of 14 and won a National Youth Administration scholarship to Southern Methodist University. His family moved back to Dallas, making it possible for him to attend school from home. He supplemented his scholarship working as a surveyor for the city and later for an electrical engineering firm. He graduated with honors at the age of 19 and went to work for General Electric.

Shepherd's first assignment was as a test engineer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, earning 65 cents an hour. While he served with the Navy during World War II, he was sent to Bowdoin College and later to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to become an electronic specialist. After the war, he earned a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois, and then worked on development projects for Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation.

In 1948, Shepherd joined Geophysical Services, Inc., where he was placed in charge of semiconductor design engineering. By 1954, Geophysical had become Texas Instruments and Shepherd had built the semiconductor operation there to a full-fledged division, which he managed at the age of 30. In 1962, Life magazine named him one of the 100 Most Important Young People in the Nation. Life credited Shepherd with leading the development of transistor mass production and helping to make his company the world's leading producer of semiconductors. Shepherd rose through the ranks of Texas Instruments and was named president in 1967. Two years later, he was designated CEO. He became chairman in 1976, a position he held until his retirement in 1988. In 1980, a Wall Street Journal/Gallup poll ranked Shepherd among the top 20 business executives most respected by his peers. Under his leadership, Texas Instruments grew from a company with annual sales of $233 million to one with more than $4.6 billion.

"Growing up in a today's world is a challenge," says Shepherd. "I think kids today maybe have a harder time because they have so many choices, but their first choice should be to get a good education."

* Deceased