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Barclay Simpson, Berkeley Medalist, has passed away (1921-2014)

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Go Bears.

Go Bears.
Go Bears.
Cal Bears Online

One of the greatest supporters of the University of California--and Cal Athletics by extension--has left us. Barclay Simpson passed away this week at the ripe old age of 93.

Simpson has long been an ardent champion of everything UC Berkeley stands for. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Simpson joined the U.S. Naval Air Corps and flew with his fellow "Flying Golden Bears" in the Pacific theatre. He earned his B.S. Degree from Cal in 1966, 20 years after the war. His company Simpson Manufacturing is the largest structural connector manufacturer in the United States and Europe.

His philanthropy has ensured that many projects on the Berkeley campus have gone forward, particularly the Simpson Center (known to most of us as the Student Athlete High Performance Center, or SAHPC) that is named after him (interestingly enough, his son John is the former president of the University of Buffalo, and convinced his dad to donate to the project. Score one for UB!).

Outside that donation, Simpson has done so much for this university. As a member of he BAM/PFA board of directors, he has spurred the charge to build a completely new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive downtown. He has supported Girls Inc. in Oakland and has served on the board of the Bay Area Rapid Transit district. For his efforts in the BAM/PFA replacement project, he was awarded the Berkeley Medal, the highest honor from the university.

Simpson's legacy will loom large over this campus. We can only help that the people who follow him will continue providing for a university that is desperately in need of funding in every way.

Chancellor Dirks issued this statement on Simpson (click here for the full statement).


Barc, as his friends and family knew him, stood enthusiastically for economic innovation and social progress, equity and access to education for young people, and excellence in diverse spheres from the arts to business to athletics.

Barclay Simpson loved Cal wholeheartedly.

He and his wife, Sharon, have left an indelible legacy across the campus. You see it from the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance, which is a game-changer for student-athletes, to the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; and from undergraduate scholarships to the Haas School of Business and the University Library.

He was a major force in the initiative to replace BAM/PFA’s seismically challenged museum building on Bancroft Way. The new museum will open to the public in early 2016 in downtown Berkeley at the historic, former site of UC Press — yet another testimonial to the lasting impact of Barc and Sharon’s leadership and philanthropy.

He and Sharon also co-chaired The Campaign for Berkeley, which concluded a few months ago, raising $3.13 billion from more than 281,000 donors. In addition to his campaign work, Barc served two terms as board president at BAM/PFA and as a UC Berkeley Foundation trustee.

For Barc, the love affair with Cal can be traced to his childhood. His mother attended Berkeley and worked as a schoolteacher in Oakland. Growing up in Oakland during the Great Depression, he recalled sneaking over a fence to catch Cal football games for free as a boy. Cal was a major presence in his life already.

While a Berkeley student during World War II, he signed up as a U.S. Naval Air Corps pilot and deployed with his fellow "Flying Golden Bears" to the Pacific. The war and the demands of his business disrupted his studies, yet he maintained his connection to campus through the years and earned a B.S. degree in business administration in 1966.

"I’ve loved the school since I was a little kid, and that hasn’t changed at all," he said earlier this year in a video for The Campaign for Berkeley. "I think supporting Cal is doing a great deal for society."



RIP. Go Bears.