After a period of declining health, Dr. Richard Lee (Dick) Simpson passed away in his sleep on December 30. The son of Donald Dake and Lottie Lee Simpson, he was born in Chevy Chase, Maryland and graduated in 1946 from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. After receiving a Pepsi Scholarship to the University of North Carolina, he moved to Chapel Hill and began his long relationship with the University. He graduated in 1950 with a degree in sociology, then completed a Masters degree from Cornell University in 1952 before returning to UNC to compete his PhD under the direction of Dr. Rupert Vance. Following short sojourns at Penn State and Northwestern, he returned to join the UNC Sociology faculty in 1956. He remained at this position until his retirement as Kenan Professor of Sociology in 2004 where he gained an international reputation for his innovative research into the sociology of work and organizations. He served as departmental chair from 1972-75 and editor of the journal Social Forces from 1969-72 and again from 1983 until the end of his professional career.
During completion of his Ph.D. studies, Dick met fellow graduate student Ida Ann Harper and they married in 1955. She embarked on her own academic career in the sociology department at Duke University and remained his wife for 62 years until separated by his passing. He is also survived by his son Dr. Robert Simpson, daughter-in-law Catherine Matsen, and granddaughter Caroline Simpson, all of Wilmington, Delaware. A second son, Frank, predeceased him in 2017. Soft-spoken and even-tempered, Dick was a master in turning phrases and possessed a delightfully droll sense of humor that delighted colleagues, friends and family. He was a voracious reader of all print media from Walt Kelly’s Pogo cartoons to the multi-volume “Dictionary of American Regional English.” He had a long-standing love of music in its many genres but most especially baroque instrumental compositions. He possessed absolute pitch and this allowed him to play many tunes on his trumpet without receiving any formal music training.
A ceremony will be held in his honor at the Carolina Inn on January 26, 2018 at 12:00. In lieu of flowers gifts may be made to the Richard L. Simpson Faculty Support Fund in the UNC Sociology Department