Shepard Hall was constructed in 1908 and was funded entirely by students, alumni, faculty, and friends of Oregon Agricultural College. It was built by the Young Men's and Women's Christian Associations to provide facilities for student organizations. It was named for Clay Shepard, a 1904 OAC graduate, who first proposed such a building and raised most of the funds before he died in 1906. In 1940, the State Board of Higher Education purchased the building and renovated it for the Speech Department.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1895, John C. Burtner graduated with a degree in horticulture from Oregon Agricultural College in 1923. He became a member of the OAC Industrial Journalism faculty a year later. He remained on staff until 1950 serving in various roles including as an instructor, as Director of the college News Bureau and as Extension Service Editor. Noted for his award-winning writing on agricultural topics, Burtner published a number of articles in national farm-oriented magazines such as the Countryman Gentleman. Burtner's photographic work for the college was also featured in Life and Look magazines. He died in 1951.