Image courtesy Mike Piscitelli,

Actor-playwright-director Sam Shepard, an SFI Miller Scholar, died July 27, 2017 at the age of 73.

Like many SFI scholars, Shepard excelled across boundaries. In 1979 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play "Buried Child," which established him as a famous playwright. But he also achieved prominence as an actor and a director. Shepard played roles in more than 40 films, most notably his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in "The Right Stuff," which earned him an Academy Award nomination in 1983. He directed several of his own plays.

Shepard spent 12 months at SFI as a Miller Scholar beginning in December 2010. The position was established by SFI's Board of Trustees Chairman Emeritus Bill Miller with the purpose of bringing creative and accomplished thinkers to the Institute, for both their complementary and orthogonal perspectives. When his scholarship concluded, Shepard continued to engage with the Institute's scientists and occasionally spent time writing on SFI's Cowan Campus.

“Sam came to SFI a curious, autodidactic nomad and he stayed on as scholar and settler,” writes SFI President David Krakauer in his Tribute to Sam Shepard. “Sam was a restless, brilliant, and gracious polymath who became an important member of our community, an unlikely and passionate interlocutor at the Santa Fe Institute, and a friend with whom we would discuss novels, poetry, folk music, and the challenges of our too often thwarted efforts at creativity.”

Read the full tribute to Sam Shepard by SFI President David Krakauer. 

According to the New York Times, a spokesperson for the Shepard family cited complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), as the cause of death. 

Shepard is survived by his three children, Jesse Mojo, Hannah Jane, and Samuel Walker Shepard, and by his sisters, Sandy and Roxanne Rogers.

Read the obituary in The New York Times (July 31, 2017)

Read the obituary in Vanity Fair (July 31, 2017)

Read the obituary in the Santa Fe New Mexican (July 31, 2017)

Read the obituary in the Albuquerque Journal North (July 31, 2017)

Listen to the Last Word on BBC Radio4 (August 4, 2017, 21:06-28:00)

Read David Krakauer's tribute to Sam Shepard in Nautilus (August 4, 2017)

Read the tribute in La Republicca (August 13, 2017)