Shearer Family Boasts 18 L&C Graduates
Lewis & Clark is proud that more than 1,200 of our alumni come from legacy families, families where more than one person has attended and graduated from the College. Below we invite you to get to know a few of the Shearers, a legacy family whose connection to the College began 80 years ago. Eighteen members of the Shearer family are alumni of the undergraduate college, and four are also alumni of the Graduate School of Education. On page 45, you’ll find photographs of other legacy families taken at the College’s Legacy Reception in May.
Gilbert and William Shearer grew up in the early 1900s on a homestead in Spring-water, near Estacada. At the time, few in this farming community finished high school, but the boys’ parents were known for encouraging springwater’s young people, generally, and the brothers, specifically, to complete high school and go to college.
The Shearers were active in the local Presbyterian Church. Gilbert and William heard through the grapevine that if they got into Albany College, which was presbyterian, the College would find jobs for them to pay for school. So the boys decided to go to Albany College, the precursor of Lewis & Clark College, thereby establishing a family tradition that has lasted for generations.
While at the College, Gilbert met his wife, Dorothy Jewell Shearer ’29. He graduated in 1930 with a degree in biology, and William got his degree in chemistry in 1931. During the next several years, the brothers earned advanced degrees in their respective fields at other Oregon colleges.
Once finished with school, Gilbert got a job at West Linn High School, where he taught biology, chemistry, and physics, and then served as a counselor. In the 1930s, William taught chemistry at both Albany College and its Portland extension center. In 1946, he joined the newly named Lewis & Clark College as an associate professor of chemistry.
William was on the faculty until 1975, and during that time all seven of his children graduated from the College. Gilbert and Dorothy’s children Roy Shearer ’54 and Barbara Shearer MacKinnon ’56 also attended the College, as did two daughters of William and Gilbert’s brother Edward, Evelyn Shearer ’73 and Gwendolyn Shearer ’76, M.A. ’05.
Along with Roy and Evelyn, William’s sons William W. Shearer ’68, M.A.T. ’72 and Norman Shearer ’68, M.A.T. ’74 met their spouses at the College. So did three members of the Shibley family, who are related to the Shearers through William’s wife, Lenora Beck Shearer. (Ten members of the Shibley family are Lewis & Clark alumni.)
According to Norman, Lewis & Clark had a prominent role in family life through William’s work as a professor and his ongoing involvement in Pioneer athletics. Since 1926, William, now 97, has seen or played in at least one College football game annually, with the exception of one season. Other Shearers attend these games too, and Homecoming is a family affair. The Shearer athletic connection at the College also includes honors. Like William, Norman and son Stefan Shearer ’07 lettered in their sports, which are wrestling and tennis, respectively. They represent one of the few families—if not the only one—to have lettered at the College in three successive generations. William is a member of the Sports Hall of Fame.
There are also strong staff relationships that tie the Shearers to the College. Several family members followed William in serving at Lewis & Clark after graduation. William’s daughter Nona Shearer ’74, for example, ran the College switchboard for three years after she earned her degree in religious studies. Janet Freeman ’73, M.A.T. ’78, Norman’s wife, worked in the English department while finishing her undergraduate degree and later served as an adjunct instructor.
Nona says that her memories of Lewis & Clark begin with her childhood in the 1950s. She remembers the numerous sporting events, as well as weekends spent doing campus landscaping with her family. (Then-president Morgan S. Odell encouraged students, faculty, and staff to participate in the maintenance of Lewis & Clark.)
As she recalls those workdays to beautify the campus, Nona says Lewis & Clark has provided the extended Shearer family with a lasting shared experience. “During all of my growing-up years, I had a sibling or cousin who was a student at the College,” she says. “In my generation, we all went to Lewis & Clark. It’s one thing we all have in common.”
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