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University of Georgia awards honorary degrees to Shepherd Center founders

The University of Georgia, in conjunction with the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, awarded honorary doctorate of laws degrees to Shepherd Center co-founders James, Alana and Harold Shepherd in recognition of their contributions to healthcare and the state of Georgia.

They awarded the honorary degrees – only 80 of which UGA has awarded in its 230-year history – when James speaks at UGA’s commencement ceremony in December.

Update: View James Shepherd's commencement speech on Youtube.

“The University of Georgia is thankful for the important work of Harold, Alana and James Shepherd and Shepherd Center,” says UGA President Michael Adams, Ph.D. “We are deeply appreciative of the help the Center has provided to UGA employees and students, especially in dealing with two critical injuries on our baseball team over the past two years. Shepherd Center makes major contributions to the health and wellness of the state and region, and the Shepherds are most deserving of this recognition.”

The Shepherds founded Shepherd Center in Atlanta in 1975. After James Shepherd sustained a paralyzing spinal cord injury in a 1973 diving accident, the Shepherd family became frustrated by the lack of rehabilitation hospitals in the Atlanta area at that time. James traveled to Colorado for treatment, and after returning home, he and his parents began plans to establish the first rehabilitation treatment facility in the Southeast.

Today, Shepherd Center is the country’s largest rehabilitation hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury and disease, acquired brain injury, multiple sclerosis and other neuromuscular disorders. The 132-bed, not-for-profit hospital consistently ranks among the nation’s top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in U.S. News and World Report surveys. Shepherd admits more than 900 people annually to its inpatient programs and nearly 600 to its day patient programs. In addition, Shepherd sees more than 6,300 people annually on an outpatient basis.

The honorary degrees from UGA follow a number of other prestigious awards presented to the Shepherds, including the 2007 Distinguished Public Service Award given by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in recognition of the Shepherds’ significant impact in the rehabilitation field.

“The honorary degrees are a huge and unexpected honor for us,” says James Shepherd, chairman of Shepherd’s Board of Directors. “It is a reflection on the excellent and dedicated people who work at Shepherd Center. We are privileged to get to wave the flag of accomplishment on behalf of the hospital when we accept these awards.”

During the commencement speech, James, a UGA alumnus, told his story of injury and recovery, as well as the founding of Shepherd Center. “It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with it,” he said.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.