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Meet Joe Shepherd PhD '81, V.P. for Student Affairs

“Giving is one of the most concrete methods we have of expressing ourselves and our personal values. Giving to Caltech is an investment in the future, not just of science and technology, but for the next generations of Caltech graduates.”
– Joseph E. Shepherd, PhD ‘81

Every gift matters. Make your impact today!

Since first arriving at Caltech as a PhD candidate almost 40 years ago, I’ve been privileged to work alongside top scientists and engineers at the frontiers of discovery and invention. Now, as a faculty member in Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, I’m proud to work with researchers and students of all levels on topics like fluid dynamics, structural mechanics, and combustion chemistry. Caltech empowers all members of its community to succeed, and this atmosphere inspired me to deepen my connection with the Institute.

Professor Brad Sturtevant (MS ‘56, PhD ‘60), my graduate adviser, taught his students that administrative involvement was just as valuable as all other aspects of being a faculty member. He was a dedicated researcher, but he also felt strongly that you had to contribute in other ways to be a “good citizen” of the Caltech community. Following Brad’s example, I became Dean of Graduate Studies in 2009, and, in 2015, I transitioned into my current position as Vice President for Student Affairs. Though these administrative roles have their challenges, the work is always rewarding, and I am committed to maintaining Caltech as a beacon of excellence and a destination of choice in higher education.

Throughout my time at the Institute, I’ve also come to appreciate the impact that financial support makes on campus. I was able to study here because of a fellowship I received, and many of our students are here today thanks to similar support. Annual gifts enable graduate and undergraduate students to work in my lab, obtaining the kind of hands-on research experience that is the hallmark of a Caltech education. Consistent support from alumni, parents, and friends ensures that students can continue to benefit from these unique opportunities.

This year, I was inspired to give back by our current students and their dedication to the Senior Class Gift campaign. For the past several years, the graduating class has raised funds as a way to give back to campus before they leave. My matching gift to Undergraduate Scholarships was contingent upon the percentage of seniors who gave, rather than the amount raised, to show our newest alumni how far their dollars can go. Likewise, your participation, at any level, encourages the investments of corporations and foundations in our faculty, our students, and the innovative research they accomplish here.

I hope you will join me in supporting Caltech this year. Annual gifts provide the resources necessary for our students to go out and make a positive impact on the world. By expressing our faith in the future of the Institute in such a concrete way, we can help ensure that it reaches its full potential.


Joseph E. Shepherd, PhD '81
Vice President for Student Affairs
C.L. “Kelly” Johnson Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering