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UW-Eau Claire news release

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UW-Eau Claire Foundation, YMCA to receive more than $8 million in estate gifts

January 10, 2012
Learn more about the Simpson family's legacy of leadership and service to students.
George Simpson Jr
George L. Simpson Jr., who left estate gifts of more than $6 million to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, played on the 1941 UW-Eau Claire (then Eau Claire State Teachers College) football team. This photo is from the Eau Claire State Teachers College 1942 yearbook, the Periscope.

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Foundation and the Eau Claire YMCA will receive gifts of an estimated $4.3 million each in the coming months as beneficiaries of a trust from the estate of Lt. Col. George L. Simpson Jr., the son of Col. George L. Simpson Sr., one of UW-Eau Claire's first faculty members, and Marie (Stannard) Simpson, a member of the university's first graduating class in 1917.

In 2003, following the death of Lt. Col. George L. Simpson Jr., the Foundation and YMCA were notified they would receive the gifts from the trust following the death of his widow, Denise Simpson. Denise Simpson died Dec. 23, 2011. In addition to the planned bequest from the trust, the Foundation received an outright gift of $2 million from the Simpson estate in 2003.

The more than $6 million gift to the university and the $4 million gift to the YMCA are the largest gifts received to date by either organization.

"UW-Eau Claire is immensely grateful to be the recipient of this gift from the estate of Lt. Col. Simpson, who clearly found the university to be an important part of his life and who now ensures that it will continue to make a difference in the lives of its students for years to come," said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich.

Ken Van Es, executive director of the Eau Claire YMCA, described the generosity of George Simpson Jr. as "unbelievable."

"The impact that a donation of this size will have on his hometown cannot be overestimated," Van Es said. "It is huge. And the positive impact this will have will last for years to come."

Lt. Col. George L. Simpson Jr., who was born in 1923 in Eau Claire, attended UW-Eau Claire (then the Eau Claire State Teachers College) and played on the football team in the early 1940s. He was a member of the YMCA when he lived in Eau Claire. He left Eau Claire to serve with the U.S. Army's 301st Infantry in Europe during World War II, where he earned two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. He later lived in De Pere and Phelps before relocating to Florida, where he lived until his death in 2003.

George Simpson Jr.'s father, Col. George L. Simpson Sr., was one of the original 20 faculty members at UW-Eau Claire (then called the Eau Claire State Normal School). He was a professor of geography from 1916 to 1951, taking leaves from the university to serve during both World War I and World War II. A football letter winner at Oshkosh High School, Oshkosh State Normal School and UW-Madison (then the University of Wisconsin), George Simpson Sr. served as UW-Eau Claire's first basketball and third football coach. He died in 1963 at the age of 72.

George and Marie Simpson
Col. George L. Simpson Sr., pictured here with his wife, Marie (Stannard) Simpson, was one of the first faculty members at UW-Eau Claire (then the Eau Claire State Normal School). Marie Simpson was a member of the school's first graduating class in 1917.

The Foundation's share of the Simpson trust account will be split between university athletics and the department of geography and anthropology, as designated by George Simpson Jr. George Simpson Sr. taught geography at UW-Eau Claire for 35 years and was a longtime coach in the athletics department. The funds will be used to establish endowments that will provide annual income of approximately $70,000 for each department, said Kimera Way, the Foundation's executive director.

"We are so humbled by Mr. Simpson's generosity, which first made its impact at UW-Eau Claire in 2003 and now will again in 2012," Way said. "We will be pleased and proud to honor the Simpson legacy in a lasting way through the endowment funds that will sustain two university programs. Each year, when the funds are invested in our students, the Simpson legacy will continue."

In the geography and anthropology department, faculty and staff work extremely hard to provide educational experiences for students that are innovative, meaningful and transformational, but there are limits to what can be done, said Dr. Douglas Faulkner, geography and anthropology department chair.

"This astonishingly generous gift will help to expand those limits, ultimately benefiting our majors and minors and all UW-Eau Claire students who take classes in geography and anthropology," Faulkner said.

The athletics department and UW-Eau Claire's student-athletes are very appreciative of the past and continuous support of the Simpson family, said Scott Kilgallon, director of athletics.

"This endowment in memory of Mr. Simpson will enable us to continue his core values of providing a great experience for our student-athletes today and in future years," Kilgallon said.

The $2 million outright gift received in 2003 from the Simpson estate became part of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation's Endowment for Excellence. Annual earnings from the endowment support student scholarships, faculty/student research, the Honors Program, faculty development and the university's other areas of greatest need.

The YMCA's board of directors will meet Jan. 25 to determine a use for the YMCA's share of the Simpson trust account. Some or all of the donation could be used to support the YMCA's plans to build a new YMCA on the corner of Menomonie Street and Clairemont Avenue.

"The size and timing of this gift could not be better for the Y," said Jack Kaiser, president of the YMCA board of directors. "As we move forward in trying to build a YMCA for the next several generations of our community, this donation will be critical to our success."

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JP/DW

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