Chief Ed Shupp Retiring After Four Decades With LUPD
Ed Shupp joined the Lehigh police force in 1978 and rose through the ranks to become chief of the LUPD in 2000. He is retiring this month after 39 years with the university.
When Ed Shupp came to Lehigh University as a part-time officer in 1978, he was just a few years out of high school and considering a career in law enforcement. The campus security office—crammed into a small office in the University Center—included only nine patrolmen who provided oversight for South Mountain Campus—the only Lehigh campus that had any student activity at the time.
Nearly 40 years later, Shupp can look back on the growth of a department that now includes 27 officers, 10 additional staff, accreditation from the state and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), a new state-of-the-art, multi-million-dollar facility on the edge of campus, the launch of a successful community policing program with the Bethlehem Police Department, and technological advances that include more than 200-plus surveillance cameras on and around campus as well as body cameras for all officers—the first police force in the Lehigh Valley to adopt them.
Shupp has launched an active community relations program in which officers work directly with local school children and South Side groups throughout the year, culminating in a highly successful Shop with a Cop program that distributes more than $10,000 in gifts and food baskets to local families every holiday season.
He has worked for seven university presidents (including two interims) and handled everything from complaints about parking tickets to a landmark campus murder case that drew national attention and spawned a campus safety movement that continues to deeply affect the way crimes on college campuses are handled and reported.
“It’s been….interesting,” says Shupp. “I feel that we accomplished a great deal in the way of establishing standards of professionalism. The department has certainly expanded and I’m very proud of the caliber of officer we have on this force. It is a tremendously dedicated and hard-working group, and I will certainly miss them and a number of people across the university who have been great and supportive allies over the years.”
After serving as department chief since 2000, Shupp will be able to hand off a well-trained force to his eventual successor. That individual will also inherit a number of challenges that bedevil campus police chiefs across the country: underage drinking and alcohol abuse, sexual assault, students crumbling under the pressure of college life, and the ever-present threat of on-campus violence, among others.
“It’s not an easy time on college campuses,” he says. “The threats have changed—and grown significantly over the past few decades. Back in the ‘70s, you weren’t thinking about an active shooter scenario. Now, it’s mandatory training for any college police officer. So, we are more aware of the issues, we understand them a little better and more people are involved in how we effectively approach them. That’s good. On the other hand, they are persistent issues, and you face a new population of students every year.
“It’s a never-ending job of working on education and awareness.”
Educators before enforcers
As head of a police force that is in constant contact with students, Shupp follows a departmental philosophy: Be educators before enforcers.
“They’re young. Some of the students have the freedom to make their own choices for the first time in their lives, and sometimes they make mistakes,” he says.
“We want to work with them, educate them, help them get back on the right path. If you can use a mistake as a learning moment, everyone benefits. No one wants to see a mistake change the trajectory of their lives. We want them to do what they came here for—and that is to have a great educational and personal experience, and go on to a great life.”
Many alumni who experienced these “learning opportunities” with Shupp when they were students have been grateful for the guidance.
“I hear from former students a lot,” he says. “They look back and realize how things could have gone different ways, and they call to say thanks. When they’re back on campus, they come in to see me. That’s one of the best parts of the job—knowing you made a positive difference for someone.”
Kevin Clayton, ’84 ’13P, current Chair of the Board of Trustees, says he and Shupp have been “close friends for a very long time” and have known each other since Clayton walked onto the Lehigh campus as a student in 1980.
“I have enjoyed the opportunity and privilege to develop a relationship with Ed as a student, an alum, a parent, trustee and interim president,” says Clayton, “and I’ve always found him to consistently put the safety, health and well-being of our students and Lehigh community first and foremost. His dedication, character and unwavering commitment to Lehigh are second to none.”
Clayton recognizes that the role of a campus police chief has changed a great deal over nearly four decades, but says Shupp has been a “steady hand and stabilizing influence who has always kept the university at the forefront in terms of professional standards and the incorporation of technology.”
Joe Sterrett ’76 ’03P ’05P ’07P ’09P ’11PG, the Murray H. Goodman Dean of Athletics, said “Ed has been a servant to our educational mission as much as he’s been a servant to the law and the protection of our campus community.” The two have worked closely over the years, and Sterrett said it was always clear that Shupp “cared deeply about Lehigh students and always treated them with respect and compassion.
“While he has been vigilant in his responsibilities for upholding the law,” Sterrett added, “he has also been a tireless advocate for education, prevention, innovation and engaging his police force with the campus community in a variety of creative ways. He was a skilled and caring professional and we will miss him.”
As impressive as Shupp’s decades of service are, says President John Simon, his tenure was about much more than longevity.
“Ed has never wavered from his commitment to keeping our students safe, and he worked tirelessly to foster good relations with the citizens of the South Side,” Simon said.
The most difficult challenge
Shupp credits Lehigh with supporting him throughout his career, beginning with encouragement to attend the Allentown Police Academy shortly after he was hired. He graduated second in his class before being promoted to investigator and then to sergeant a couple of years later. It was in the capacity that he faced what would be the most difficult case of his career: leading the investigation into the 1986 murder of Jeanne Clery, who was brutally raped and strangled by fellow student Josoph Henry.
Shupp, only 28 at the time and with three young daughters at home, got the call about the murder on a Saturday morning, and was placed in charge of the investigation along with investigators from the Pennsylvania State Police. Henry was arrested within hours and convicted after a trial in Northampton County Court. He was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison after he forfeited all appeal rights.
Shupp is quick to praise the dignity and grace of Jeanne Clery’s parents, Connie and the late Howard Clery Jr., who made campus safety the cause of their lives.
“I spent more than a year focusing on this case, and I know the emotional toll it took on me, as both a professional and a father,” he said. “It was eat, sleep and work on the case—gathering evidence, talking to witnesses, transporting them to the trial to ensure their attendance. There were many sleepless nights.
“I can’t even imagine what her parents went through to seek justice for their daughter, and I applaud their efforts to literally change our understanding of campus safety on a national level. They were unrelenting in making sure colleges were more accountable for what takes place on their campuses, and in providing parents information so they could make the right decision for their sons and daughters.”
The Clerys founded the national nonprofit Clery Center and Security on Campus, and were personally responsible for the passage of the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 (commonly known as the Clery Act), the federal law that mandates timely reporting of crimes on college campuses.
There were other challenges—including personal death threats and physical injuries sustained during policing duties—and difficult cases: accidental deaths, suicides of students and university employees, and a case unrelated to Lehigh students in which an 18-year-old shot and killed two local high school students at the Lookout on a summer night in 1995. The killer, Christopher Bissey, is serving two consecutive life sentences, with no chance of parole.
“Any kind of tragedy like this—it takes a toll on you,” Shupp said. “I think being a father makes you care even more because you understand how painful this must be for the families.”
Those who have worked closely with Shupp laud his dedication, his no-nonsense approach and his clear focus on his role at Lehigh.
“I have been privileged to know and work with Ed Shupp for over 30 years and it has always been clear to me that even though his department is responsible for the security of a campus that is now more than 2,000 acres and 100 buildings, his top priority has always been personal safety, especially that of our students,” said John Smeaton, retired vice provost for student affairs.
“He’s had a remarkable career and Lehigh is truly indebted to him for his service. And speaking personally, it’s been a privilege to know and work with him for more than 30 years.”
LUPD Assistant Chief Chris Houtz, who has worked with Shupp for 16 years, said Shupp has “the leadership ability to get you to do your best work, without you even knowing it.” (Houtz has twice been named LUPD’s Officer of the Year and in 2014, he received the national Jeanne Clery Award for Campus Safety).
Assistant to the Chief Liz Miller Coleman, who has directly worked with Shupp for nearly 11 years, lauded his insistence on professionalism and a strong value system, and consistent concern for his staff.
“He’s very protective—that’s just his nature,” she said. “He is protective toward everyone on campus. But he’s always been very supportive, very helpful in helping us move things forward. I’ve feel like I’ve learned something new every day I worked for him.”
Pat Johnson, vice president for finance and administration, said it was an honor over the past few years to oversee the LUPD, which she said Shupp led with integrity and strength.
“He is available at all times of the day and night and has always taken on the tasks that are given to him, including the IDEAL office, which recently became one of his new responsibilities,” Johnson said, adding that Shupp was always an “excellent steward” of university funds, and that he was instrumental in improving the financial status and service of IDEAL. She also praised his dedication to the local community and to his role in the on-time-and-under-budget completion of the new LUPD headquarters on Packer Avenue.
“I will miss his honesty, his tenacity and his sense of humor,” Johnson said.
Clayton worked closely with Shupp during Clayton’s 2014-15 interim presidency and supported the expansion of community policing efforts and the acquisition of technological tools. He said that Shupp “embodies the best values and qualities that we’ve come to associate with Lehigh. His warm smile and affable way will be greatly missed by the Lehigh community.”
As much as Shupp enjoyed the Lehigh chapter of his life, the next will bring its own joys. He will relocate to Southern California, having recently married Sharon Basso (former Lehigh associate vice provost for Student Affairs and dean of students), now vice president of Student Affairs at Claremont McKenna College. From their new home base on the West Coast, Shupp will continue his security consulting work with the PGA and USGA. He’ll also have more time to enjoy his family of four daughters, sons-in law, and seven grandchildren (an eighth is due in May).
“It’s been great being at Lehigh,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to a new life.”
A reception honoring Chief Shupp for his 39 years of service will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18th, in the Asa Packer Dining Room of the UC.
Story by Linda Harbrecht