After a period of declining health, Richard (Dick) Simpson passed away in his sleep on December 30. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Ida, son Robert, daughter-in-law Catherine Matsen, and granddaughter Caroline Matsen Simpson. Another son, Frank, pre-deceased him by less than a month.
Dick retired as a Kenan Professor of Sociology in 2004 after 46 years on the faculty at UNC-CH. A native of the Washington, D.C. area, he had earned his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Sociology from UNC in the 1950s, along with an M.A. degree from Cornell. After short sojourns at Penn State and Northwestern, he returned to join the UNC Sociology faculty in 1958.
One of the last links to Howard Odum, the legendary founder of the UNC Sociology Department and one of his teachers, Dick developed specialties in the sociology of organizations and work. He was an exceptional scholar and teacher who served as a steadying Department chair during the locally and nationally tumultuous period of the early ‘70s. He was also elected president in 1972 of the Southern Sociological Society.
Dick’s most sustained and impressive professional activity was as editor of the distinguished journal Social Forces from 1969 to 1972 and 1983 to the end of his academic career. In that role, he reviewed and was responsible for selecting for dissemination many important contributions to the field. More than anything else, this made him a central figure in Sociology of the late 20th century. In 2006 his name was embossed in the Southern Sociological Society’s prestigious Roll of Honor.
Soft-spoken and even-tempered, Dick was a master in turning phrases and possessed a delightfully droll sense of humor. When he retired, his high level of erudition and wit was lost to the Department, and now, sadly, is extinguished.
Submitted by Richard Cramer with contributions from John Reed and Robert Simpson