Paul L. Caron

Monday, March 28, 2016

Death Of Ira Shepard

ShepardFrom Marty McMahon (Florida):

I am deeply saddened to let you know that my dear friend Ira Shepard, Professor Emeritus at the University of Houston Law Center, passed away earlier today.  Ira and I have been friends for over thirty years and have worked closely together.  Over the past twenty-five years, Ira and I made some seventy-five odd CLE current development presentations all over the country, including over 20 consecutive years at the ABA Tax Section Mid-Winter Meeting and the University of Texas Tax Conference and seventeen years at Southern Federal Tax Institute and North Carolina Tax Institute, as well as many others.  We published our current developments outline in the Florida Tax Review every year since 2000.

Ira was smart, erudide, witty, and had a keen sense of humor.  He always provided great insights as to the history of tax law and practice, made me laugh, and was a wonderful companion at the many speaking engagements we did together.  I doubtless ate more meals with Ira than anyone who is not a member of my own family.

Ira was a wonderful person.  I am heart-broken and will miss him greatly. But not as much as his family-- his wife, Rosemary, and his children, Mark and Hannah.

Burial is private, followed by a memorial service and reception at Emanu El synagogue in Houston. The time has not been finalized, but it will very likely be this Tuesday afternoon.


From Calvin Johnson (Texas):

I would like to join in praise of Ira Shepard. He is irreplaceable. For the last 25 years, he and Marty have provided the first cut on history by digesting current developments in tax for CLE presentations all over the country. “Spin and Marty” (does anyone else go back that far to the Disney TV series of the 50’s?) would play off each other, with Marty playing the straight man liberal, and Ira the right wing quip. Apart from his politics, Ira was an astute observer of tax current events, and he would provide a meaning to separate the chaff and the germ as the news went by. He was always a pleasure to talk to, proviso that we kept on the topic of tax. Outside of tax he seems to have sent himself on a mission to eviscerate PC, in whatever its form, which I enjoy less. Ira is the Bronx High School of Science kid and I am the White Plains High School kid who, and who would have thought it, grew fond of each other.

I have enjoyed him for 46 years. In the summer of 1970, he was assigned as Paul Weiss associate to help orient incoming summer associates. We were a pretty radical bunch by and large, having successfully shut down finals across various law schools because of Cambodia, and I think my age cohort was also willing to play off previous success and shut down the world. Ira was former naval officer, and I had purple heart from Vietnam at that point, and he sat next me at a long table, with me at the end. We started to talk a bit on student unrest, I think I was in favorish, and we were off. He did no further orienting to anyone else that day. For years. The high light of ABA tax section meetings for years was talking to Ira in the courtesy lounge. Who cared about the panels when there was Ira? I think there was at least one meeting in which I never made it to a presentation and yet it was wonderful. It has been a continuation conversation since 1970, with a deep underlying affection, and alas not cleaned up and resolved at his death. He left us way too quickly.

From Bruce McGovern (Vice President and Associate Dean, South Texas):

Ira Shepard was one of the most remarkable people I have ever met.  As a professional colleague, Ira was extraordinarily smart and had the type of deep and broad knowledge of tax that few people possess.  As a friend and mentor to many, including me, he was caring, kind, and generous.  He was always concerned for others and went out of his way to help people.  He had a wonderful, irreverent sense of humor.  For roughly 40 years, he wrote an outline on recent developments in federal income taxation and presented it at conferences around the country, working for much of that time with Marty McMahon and for some of that time with Dan Simmons.  Although I have known Ira for many years and served with him on the Council of the Houston Bar Association Section of Taxation, it was not until about three years ago that I came to work with him closely.  At about that time, I was fortunate to be asked by Ira to begin writing and presenting with him the recent developments outline.  I always looked forward to discussing the items with Ira (I inevitably learned a lot) and presenting them with him.  Even after he ceased writing and presenting, he sat next to me at many events and offered perspective on the items under discussion through his comments.  It is hard to contemplate never sitting next to him again.  He was a special person who touched many, many lives, including mine, and I will miss him terribly.

Houston Chronicle Obituary:

Ira B. Shepard died on March 27, 2016. He was born on December 14, 1937 in the Bronx and was fortunate to have attended the Bronx High School of Science (math team and math honors), Harvard College (NROTC) and Harvard Law School (law review membership). He spent three largely meaningless years in the navy and seven years as an associate in the ultra-liberal law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

He spent forty years teaching tax law and legal ethics at the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina, with the lion's share of years spent teaching at the University of Houston Law Center. He spent six [Eighth and Thirteenth Amendment-violating] years as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs before his much-welcomed promotion back to the full-time faculty. He served on (and chaired) numerous University committees, where his advice was rarely heeded.

His love was speaking on tax law. He made numerous annual presentations on "Recent Developments in Federal Income Taxation" to a wide range of groups of tax professionals in Houston and around the country. He was the Special Advisor to the Southern Federal Tax Institute for 37 years, served as president of the Wednesday Tax Forum, and sat for many years on the board of the (Houston) International Tax Forum and the council of the Houston Bar Association Tax Section. He is a fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel, and was selected by the State Bar of Texas Tax Section as the 2013 Outstanding Texas Tax Lawyer. He served on the Board and Executive Committee of Congregation Emanu El, as well as on the Board of the (Houston) American Jewish Committee and the Advisory Board of the (Houston) Anti-Defamation League.

He is survived by Rosemary, his wife of 33 years, by Mark and Hannah, his children, by Rouhua Annetta Zhou, his daughter-in-law, and by Lillian Youjia Shepard, his granddaughter. He is also survived by many cousins and thousands of former students. He was predeceased by his mother Eva Eisenstein Berman and his father Abraham Shapiro.

A memorial service will be held, at 3:00pm, on Tuesday, March 29, 2016, at Congregation Emanu El. In lieu of flowers please consider giving to a charity close to your heart or close to his heart: University of Houston Law Center, 4604 Calhoun Rd, Houston 77004-6060 or Congregation Emanu El, 1500 Sunset Blvd. Houston 77005.

UH Law Center Remembers Ira B. Shepard:

Professor Emeritus Ira B. Shepard, who unraveled the complexities of tax law for thousands of students during his 36 years in the classroom at the University of Houston Law Center, died Sunday at the age of 78.

Known among colleagues and students for his kindness and good humor, Shepard was known nationally for his expertise in the ever-evolving field of tax law. ...

“With his Harvard credentials and elite practice background, he helped set a good precedent for hiring, and worked hard to build our tax law program,” said Professor Emeritus Stephen Zamora, who also served as dean during Shepard’s tenure. “He was a fount of erudition – a question about a poet, or Shakespeare, or a cultural question, would prompt him to take out his little black book in which he registered all kinds of arcane information.”

“Ira was a leader in the national tax community and in Houston,” said Paul Asofsky, an adjunct professor and senior advisor to the LLM Tax Program. “He carved out a niche for himself, apprising tax practitioners of current developments in the tax law on a monthly basis. Participants in tax institutes all over the country and at the Wednesday Tax Forum here in Houston looked forward to his presentations, which were laced with good humor as well as scholarship.”

Associate Professor Bret Wells added, “Ira was instrumental in getting the Houston Business and Tax Law Journal started. He had a strong interest in facilitating conversations about the tax law among academics, practitioners, and the judiciary.

“He also was instrumental in forging the University of Houston Law Center’s IRS Externship Program. That program allows our students to gain valuable experience working with the IRS District Counsel. UHLC was one of the first law schools to have such a program, and Ira’s vision helped create that program in the early 1990s.

“He also spoke monthly in Houston for over 30 years on federal income tax updates and maintained a rigorous speaking schedule that touched the lives of everyone in the tax community on a national scale. His public speaking endeared him to the tax profession and made him one of the most beloved and respected tax law professors of this generation.”

Shepard, a primary force in establishing the school’s LL.M. Taxation program, retired from teaching in 2011, but continued as a senior adviser to the program and as an active speaker and participant in tax-related organizations and conferences. He was honored in 2013 with the Outstanding Texas Tax Lawyer award by the Tax Section Council of the State Bar of Texas. The award is the highest bestowed by the Tax Section to honor colleagues for their outstanding reputation, expertise, and professionalism in the practice of tax law in Texas.

Legal Education, Obituaries, Tax | Permalink


I am saddened to hear this. I was in Prof. Shepard's class in the fall of 2001. On September 11, most of us came to class. I think we just wanted to be together. I remember he told us that we would honor those who died by continuing to work and not becoming distracted by terror. It was a good message then and now. My prayers are with his family and friends.

Posted by: Missy Khan | Mar 29, 2016 1:58:45 PM

It was a pleasure and an honor to have been one of Ira Shepard's students. Thank you Ira.

Posted by: W Frances Moore | Mar 29, 2016 10:25:17 AM

As a former student of Professor Ira Shepard, I am saddened to hear of his passing and I am grateful for the lessons he taught. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

Posted by: Roger D. Martin | Mar 29, 2016 8:18:53 AM

Ira Shepard was a friend, mentor, and counselor who influenced my professional life more than any individual. He will be greatly missed.

Posted by: Jennifer Stewart | Mar 29, 2016 7:12:22 AM

Fair winds and following seas...

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Mar 29, 2016 6:51:35 AM

Ira was a friend and a colleague. I don't recall exactly when he came to UH Law, but Ira made it a point to know a lot of people, including the tax bar, in Houston. Around 1982 (the precise year is shrouded in the fog of time), he encouraged me to teach as an adjunct at UH Law School. (I finally taught my last class there in the Fall of 2015 incident to my move to Charlottesville, with about a 4 year break in about the late 1980s.)

During that period, both in my activity at the law school and in various groups and individually, I got to know Ira pretty well. The first things I learned about Ira was that he was incredibly smart and that he seemed to know everybody in the tax practice area. And, focusing on tax, he had the capacity to not only remember case names (even obscure case names), but also, sometimes at least, the citations of the cases and even the Revenue Rulings. His mind was encyclopedic. And, not only did he and I engage on tax matters, we also engaged on politics and on religion (he taught me a good bit about Judaism as I furthered my interest in Judaism). Mensch is an overworked term in our society, but there are some mensches in this world. Ira was one.

He also had an incredible memory of the students he had taught over the years. He knew them personally and seemed to recall something special about them all. We had shared students over the years. In some of our discussions, he would mention a former student that, he would remind me, had taken my class and, sometimes, I just could not remember until Ira reminded me of something special about them that jogged my memory.

I can't even begin to remember all of my students who shared with me their appreciation of Ira as teacher and mentor for them. For them and for me, we are lucky to have had Ira in our professional and student lives.

Ira was always the teacher, whether inside or outside the classroom. Outside the classroom, he was always willing to participate and speak in bar activities where he broadened his group of "students."

Finally, just one anecdote about -- really tribute to -- Ira. In my classes, I taught open book which meant that the students could bring anything into the exam they wanted to. But, I warned the students tongue in cheek that they could not bring Ira Shepard with them to the exam. They all knew Ira as teacher and mentor and understood that that would indeed be unfair advantage.

Posted by: Jack Townsend | Mar 28, 2016 9:20:53 AM

This really makes me sad. Prof. Shepard was the kindest person I have ever worked for here at the Law Center. He calmed me down and sat with me one day that he caught me in the coffee/in-box area of our office, bent over in pain from the cancer I was fighting at the time. Prof. Shepard sat with me and taught me his breathing techniques, that pulled me through many-MANY a day, when I prayed to God to just take me. What blessing he was to me. I will always remember him with much love.

Posted by: Rose Verde | Mar 28, 2016 7:34:03 AM