The Washington Association of Black Journalists (WABJ) is deeply saddened by the passing of award-winning journalist, educator, and longtime supporter Alicia “Lisa” Shepard, who died on April 1 from complications of lung cancer.
Shepard, 69, volunteered for more than a decade with WABJ’s Urban Journalism Workshop (UJW), an annual eight-week program for D.C. area high school students founded in 1986. In 2020, Shepard co-founded the UJW Angel Scholarship Fund with immediate past program coordinator and National Public Radio producer Trina Williams to provide annual financial support to program participants in college.
“The WABJ family is saddened by Lisa’s passing. Her service and support to this chapter and our youth has been unwavering, and she’s left an invaluable impact on our UJW program,” said President Khorri Atkinson. “We extend our deepest sympathies to her family, friends, and colleagues.”
Among her UJW peers and friends, Shepard is remembered as one of the program’s most dedicated volunteers and for her passion about newsroom diversity. Shepard, a former NPR ombudsman, also taught media courses at Georgetown University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the University of Arkansas, and American University.
“Lisa was all in, committing for the duration of the annual two-month workshop and beyond,” said Williams. “In addition to guiding students on their stories, she helped create and grade current events quizzes, taught ethics, contributed money for student lunches, recruited students to apply, and always asked ‘How can I help?'”
“Ms. Lisa was one of my mentors when I attended UJW. I remember her saying “All you need is a lead, that will make the story,” said Sydnee Assan, a former UJW participant and junior student at Charles Herbert Flowers High School.
UJW mentor and Washington Star Features writer Jacqueline Miller Byrd remembers Shepard fondly. “Alicia Shepard stood tall and wise with NPR, the Urban Journalism Workshop, and WABJ. Lisa left a notebook of advocacy for journalists and her chair will be hard to fill,” said Byrd.
Immediate past President Donna Walker, a longtime UJW mentor, said, “Lisa was such a bright light and inspiration from the moment you met her—for myself as well as the UJW students, to whom she was so dedicated. Her funding of a yearly scholarship demonstrated this, whether or not she could be there to offer support in person.”
Shepard’s memorial service will be held on Friday, April 14 at 2 p.m. at Riverbend Park, 8700 Potomac Hills St., Great Falls, VA. Memorial contributions in Lisa’s honor may be made to The Alicia “Lisa” Cobb Shepard Legacy Fund.