From Sandra Molina of the Whittier Daily News:

WHITTIER – Geoff Shepard is the remaining living individual with the most experience involved in the intricacies of Richard Nixon’s Watergate defense.

He served five years in the Nixon White House, having joined the administration right after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1969 as a White House Fellow.

“No one else had gone to the same college as the president,” Shepard, 65, said Monday.

At the end of the fellowship, he stayed on and joined the newly founded Domestic Council, the counterpart to the National Security Council.

“It was the council staff’s job to help the president with major domestic issues by preparing decision papers on domestic affairs,” Shepard said during a sit-down interview at Whittier College, his and Nixon’s alma mater.

It was an appropriate setting to discuss the President Richard M. Nixon Legacy program, which Shepard oversees.

As a junior at Whittier College, Shepard received a $200 Richard Nixon Scholarship from the Whittier Republican Woman’s Club.

“Everyone was surprised he was in attendance to present the scholarship to me,” Shepard said.

The two talked about the differences and similarities in attending the private college 30 years apart.

Nixon was so impressed by the young man, a matching check for $200 arrived from Nixon within weeks.

“I had doubled my money,” mused Shepard.

Now a Whittier College trustee, he and most of the surviving members of Nixon’s staff – including Donald Rumsfeld, Pat Buchanan and Diane Sawyer – will take part in their annual reunion Nov. 5.

For 30 years, they have met after November elections to discuss the state of the country.

The seed was planted for the Legacy program during one of the reunions.

With the former policy planners talking issues, Shepard thought it would be advantageous to researchers and scholars to film those who were there.

During the Watergate crisis, Shepard helped transcribe the White House tapes, was a government witness in the Plumbers Trial and was subpoenaed as a witness in the cover-up trial.

Shepard, who declined to talk extensively on the record regarding Watergate for this interview, said the Legacy program is part of a way to heal the wounds of that scandal.

“Watergate happened,” he said. “There’s no way around it.”

But, Shepard said, Nixon was so much more, a true statesman.

“He wanted to do so much, and he was pulling (his staff) along,” he said. “We scrambled to keep up with him.”

Shepard attributed this sense of obligation and hard work ethic to his upbringing in Whittier and having gone to Whittier College.

“This place shaped Dick Nixon,” he said.

“The values he learned here – an openness to innovation and listening to the other guy – are what he took to the White House,” Shepard said.

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Photo: Geoff Shepard talks The Mysteries of Watergate at the 4th Legacy Forum at the Richard Nixon Library on May 24, 2010.