Ethan Allen Hitchcock Shepley, a descendent of early American revolutionary Ethan Allen, was born in St. Louis in 1896. His father and grandfather were both graduates of Washington University. Shepley earned his undergraduate degree at Yale and entered Harvard Law School, but finished his law degree at Washington University in 1922.
He practiced law in St. Louis and became active in state politics. After stepping down as Chancellor, he was the Republican Party's candidate for Governor in 1964.
Shepley became Chancellor in 1953, the first alumnus to hold the position. He oversaw the transition of the University from a "streetcar college" for local students to a national university with a majority of its students from outside the region. A major fund raising drive led to a new round of construction, including the John M. Olin Library, Urbauer Hall for engineering, Busch Laboratory for biology, and Steinberg Hall for the Gallery of Arts, as well as several new dormitories on the South 40.