From 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.