Former Texas Instruments Inc. chairman Mark Shepherd Jr. dies


by By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:50 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 12:31 PM

Mark Shepherd Jr., who played a key role in transforming Texas Instruments Inc. into an electronics giant, died Wednesday of complications from pulmonary fibrosis at his ranch in Quitman, Texas. He was 86.

Mr. Shepherd, TI's chairman from 1976 to 1988, made contributions during his 40-year career as an engineer and executive that changed the company, Dallas and the industry.

Mark Shepherd Jr.

He joined the company as it was morphing from its roots in oilfield seismology work to a postwar computer-age innovator. TI's innovations during his career included transistor radios, hand-held calculators and semiconductors that changed the way people around the world live.

"Mark played a leading role in the creation of the semiconductor industry, and he was a driving force in establishing TI as one of the first global electronics companies," said Rich Templeton, TI's chairman, president and chief executive. "Because of his foresight, TI today has a strong footprint in electronics markets all over the world."

Mr. Shepherd was born in Dallas, where his father was a police officer. The precocious Mr. Shepherd started private school when he was 3 years old, built a vacuum tube in his garage when he was 6 and made his first radio when he was 7.

He grew up in East Texas, where his family moved after his father was permanently disabled by encephalitis.

When Mr. Shepherd was old enough to attend public school, he started in the fourth grade. He graduated from high school at 14.

He attended Southern Methodist University on a scholarship and received a bachelor's degree in engineering, graduating with honors in 1942.

Mr. Shepherd began his career with General Electric Co. in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he met his wife-to-be, Mary Alice Murchland.

He served in the Navy as a lieutenant specializing in radar and electronics maintenance aboard the light cruiser USS Tucson during World War II.

After the war, he married Ms. Murchland and earned a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1947.

He worked for Farnsworth Television and Radio Corp. in Fort Wayne until 1948, when he saw a way to return to Texas.

While in Texas for his father's funeral, he noticed a new building in Dallas for Geophysical Service Inc., an oilfield services company that was about to become Texas Instruments.

Mr. Shepherd's first employment application, as a college student, had been rejected. But in 1948, he was hired as a project engineer.

In 1951, he was promoted to assistant chief engineer for administration.

In 1952, TI made a landmark investment, spending $25,000 to send Mr. Shepherd and three associates to a Bell Laboratories seminar about that company's newly invented transistor.

The Texans were small players at the 1952 seminar, Mr. Shepherd remembered in 1986.

"We were sort of the country boys," he said. "Everybody wondered why we were there. My strongest feeling was, 'I hope the rest of you guys continue to be complacent.' "

Back in Dallas, Mr. Shepherd and his co-workers took the lead in developing commercial applications for the transistor. The company would improve on the transistor and invented the integrated circuit.

By 1953, Mr. Shepherd was TI's chief engineer.

He worked long days, often bringing home co-workers for supper and then returning to the office to work into the night. He also traveled a great deal for his work.

Soon, he was promoted to assistant vice president and general manager of the semiconductor components division. The promotions kept coming, to vice president in 1955 and executive vice president and chief operating officer in 1961.

In 1962, Life magazine hailed him as one of the 100 most important young people in the nation.

Mr. Shepherd had a reputation for being an outspoken and sometimes belligerent manager. A brass plaque in his office read: "Nothing is ever accomplished by a reasonable man."

Lewis McMahan of Dallas, TI's former manager of worldwide facilities, said Mr. Shepherd was big both in his physical presence and when he spoke.

"You knew who was in charge," Mr. McMahan said. "He could also be a very kind person, a real caring person. He would drop by and say hello to you or call you just to talk to you. There were clearly two sides to the way he handled people."

Mr. Shepherd was personally involved in every aspect of the company, from the design of individual production sites with Mr. McMahan to the corporation's image around the world, his former colleague said.

Mr. Shepherd was elected to the TI board of directors in 1963 and was named company president in 1967 and CEO in 1969. Chairman of the board was added to his title in 1976.

He retired in 1985 and remained chairman until 1988. He served as a general director until 1993.

A Mass will be celebrated at 1 p.m. Saturday at Christ the King Catholic Church in Dallas. Private graveside services will be at Hillcrest Memorial Park.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Shepherd is survived by two daughters, Marykay Shepherd of Quitman and Debra Shepherd Robinson of Dallas; a son, Marc B. Shepherd of Plano; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Southwestern Medical Foundation, for pulmonary fibrosis research; or to the Baylor Health Care System Foundation, for multiple sclerosis research.