Even Whitworth students who never took a class from Clarence (“Clem”) Simpson or attended Whitworth during his tenure have been touched, through the Core program, by his influence. President Frank Warren hired Simpson in 1953 to head the English department. Along with Fenton Duvall, who had arrived four years earlier, Simpson added stability to the liberal arts core. Under Simpson’s leadership as academic dean in the 1960s, Whitworth implemented what are now hallmarks of a Whitworth education: the Core Worldview Program and the 4-1-4 academic year (featuring two four-month semesters and a one-month Jan Term). He emphasized the wholeness of the education of mind and heart that integrates scholarship and faith, and he called for strong faculty-and-student interaction.
Many students and alumni point to Whitworth’s Core program as being life-changing; the courses challenged many to explore great thinkers, faith expressions and ethical questions. Students also point to Simpson’s direct influence on their Whitworth careers. “Clem visited San Jose, California, when I was a senior in high school and encouraged me to apply to Whitworth for the fall of 1970,” wrote Randy McGrady-Beach, ’74, in a tribute to Simpson and Duvall. “My dad [Leslie Beach] had taught at Whitworth, but we left there in 1963. By high school our resources were limited, so I was applying only to California state schools. Dr. Simpson was able to get me a small scholarship, and with that financial aid I was able to enroll at Whitworth.”
Simpson was known for his integrity, warmth and wisdom, and for his devotion to his faith. He was a graduate of Asbury College, in Kentucky, and earned a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and a doctorate in philosophy from Stanford University. President Mark Koehler, who in 1966 appointed Simpson academic dean, said, “Professor Simpson represents a unique blend of academic achievement, sensitive Christian faith, and uncommon administrative ability.”