Community group starts the Nellie Shepard scholarship

Nellie Shepard spent 30 years teaching physics and chemistry at Southington High School before her retirement in 1989, years she calls the most rewarding of her life.
“You know, I never had children, so my students were my children – and I had just the best kids in the world,” said Nellie, a Southington native who still resides in town and is revered throughout the community as an active, compassionate friend who continues to care deeply about Southington’s children.
Those who had Nellie as a teacher know the impact she has had on their lives. And thanks to Nellie’s generosity, that impact will continue in perpetuity with her establishment of the Nellie F. Shepard Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain.
The first Shepard scholarship will be awarded in 2015 to a Southington High School student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in one of the fields that Nellie loves dearly – biology, chemistry, materials science, physics (including astronomy), earth science or interdisciplinary studies in natural science.
Nellie’s choice to extend the impact of her teaching career – and her legacy – far into the future does not surprise one of her closest friends, Pastor Victoria Triano of Southington.
“Nellie is not someone who just talks the talk – she walks the walk,” says Triano, who knew Nellie as “Miss Shepard” back in her high school days and today enjoys a fast friendship centered on their shared faith. “What I see when I see Nellie is someone who places service above self,” she said. “Whether she is visiting those who need a supportive friend as a pastoral care volunteer with her pet therapy dog Jac, or whether she is providing an opportunity for a student to further his or her education with a scholarship, it is Nellie being Nellie – someone whose compassion and generosity make a difference in this world.”
Nellie was raised in Southington by her mom, Mary, a single parent in the days when single parents were rare. Mary, too, was a teacher, and instilled in Nellie the self-confidence to take on the world and make a difference.
After graduating from then-Lewis High School in Southington in 1950, Nellie went on to Teacher’s College in New Britain (now Central Connecticut State University) and graduate studies at Wesleyan University. Nellie says she was fortunate to have studied during the “Sputnik Era,” a time in the late 50s when the space race was on and government grants to pursue studies in the sciences were plentiful.
She took advantage of those grants to do post-graduate work at St. Joseph’s College (now University) in West Hartford.
“It was a special time in our history, especially for those like me who loved the sciences,” said Nellie.
Nellie’s greatest pride, she says, is her students, many of whom have gone on to accomplished studies and careers of their own. One of her former students is Southington’s own Dr. Taft Armandroff, an internationally noted research astronomer and author who is currently a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the University’s McDonald Observatory.
Students interested in applying for the Nellie F. Shepard Scholarship are advised to contact the Southington High School Guidance Office.
Established in 1941, the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain connects donors who care with causes that matter in Berlin, New Britain, Plainville and Southington. It does this by raising resources and developing partnerships that make a measurable improvement in the quality of life in each of these communities. For more information, visit www.cfgnb.org.

Nellie Shepard and her dog Jack.

Nellie Shepard and her dog Jack.

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