For runners in the Boston Marathon, tackling the 88-foot-high Heartbreak Hill 20 miles into the race can be analogous to climbing Mount Everest. Battling exhaustion, many marathoners find the climb to be a true test of willpower. But when Linda and Bob Shepherd '70 began heading up the slope April 21, 1997, they had months of careful planning on their side. Their foresight, and a healthy dose of determination, was more than enough to propel them up the hill and across the finish line.
The Shepherds proved their mettle during their college days, as well. Linda was the third person in her family to earn a college degree, and Bob was the first. Both credit their mothers' commitment to education with making their achievements possible. "My mother didn't complete her college degree, but she put four kids through college. It was never an option not to graduate," Linda recalled.
Bob's mother, a voracious reader, was self-educated and earned her GED by studying on her own. "Now we give to universities to honor our moms," Bob remarked. "And I give to Rice because I really appreciate what Rice did for me."
Bob, a radiologist who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in chemical engineering from Rice, said the solid academic foundation he received as an undergraduate gave him the flexibility to enter any field. In establishing the Lurlene Shepherd Endowed Scholarship to honor Bob's mother, the Shepherds are ensuring that undergraduate women in financial need receive an equally strong education. By funding the scholarship with a deferred gift annuity, they are also guaranteeing themselves a steady stream of income for the long haul.
"A deferred gift annuity serves so many purposes," Linda explained. "Besides providing us with secure income during our lifetimes, it allows us to support a good cause while honoring someone we love. It's the perfect way to secure our retirement."
Bob and Linda are hopeful that many of Rice's alumni and friends will join them in planning ahead for themselves and Rice. "If people knew more about deferred gift annuities, they'd jump on the bandwagon," Bob said.