Simpson College
College Hall at Simpson College
Former names
Indianola Male and Female Seminary (1860-1865)[1]
Des Moines Conference Seminary (1865-1867)[1]
Simpson Centenary College (1867-1885)[1]
TypePrivate liberal arts college
Established1860; 164 years ago (1860)
Religious affiliation
United Methodist Church
Academic affiliations
Endowment$78.6 million[5]
PresidentJay Byers [6]
DeanJohn Woell[7]
Academic staff
80 Full-time & 65 Part-time[8]
Students1,267 (Spring 2022)[8]
Location, ,
United States

41°21′52.2″N 93°33′54.0″W / 41.364500°N 93.565000°W / 41.364500; -93.565000
Campus85 acres (34 ha)
Colors  Red
NicknameThe Storm
Sporting affiliations
American Rivers Conference[9]
MascotThunder the Elephant[10]

Simpson College is a private Methodist liberal arts college in Indianola, Iowa. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and has about 1,250 full-time and 300 part-time students. In addition to the Indianola residential campus, Simpson has a facility in West Des Moines.[11]

Simpson is known for its commitment to civic engagement and non-partisan education on public issues, exemplified by the John C. Culver Public Policy Center and by its two Pi Kappa Delta debate national championships from 2016 and 2018.[12][13]

Simpson College is #1 among Iowa private colleges and #7 overall in the newly released U.S. News & World Report's 2022-23 Midwest Regional Rankings. Simpson's Midwest honors also included a #4 ranking among “Best Value Schools” and #6 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.”[14]


Indianola Male and Female Seminary was opened September 24, 1860, and the name was changed to the Des Moines Conference Seminary in September 1865. On September 21, 1867, the school was upgraded to a college, and renamed Simpson Centenary College to honor Methodism's most renowned living bishop, Bishop Matthew Simpson (1811-1884) and to celebrate the centennial of American Methodism. (Simpson is best known as the minister who spoke a eulogy at Abraham Lincoln's funeral in Springfield, Illinois, in 1865; he was known as a great pulpit preacher.) Simpson himself gave the commencement address at Simpson in 1882. In June 1885, "Centenary" was dropped from the name, becoming simply Simpson College.

September 28, 2010, marked the 150th anniversary of the school's founding as an educational institution. To celebrate the event, students and alumni held a ceremony in front of the college gates, where a time capsule was buried with pictures and memorabilia submitted by students. The capsule will be uncovered in 2060, on Simpson's 200th anniversary.

Naming History
Years Name
1860–1865 Indianola Male and Female Seminary
1865–1867 Des Moines Conference Seminary
1867–1885 Simpson Centenary College
1885–present Simpson College



Historic College Hall (formerly Old Chapel)

The 85-acre (340,000 m2) tree-lined campus is bordered on the north by Buxton Park Arboretum. The architecture blends tradition with modernity. The theater building, an example of the Brutalist architecture that dominated American campus construction in the 1970s, was renovated and added on to in 2010–11, softening its features.

Wallace Hall (formerly Science Hall) housed George Washington Carver's first college classrooms.

Other notable construction includes the Kent Family Campus center, which replaced the old Brenton Student Center as the center of student life. The 55,000-square-foot campus center houses meeting rooms and offices for student groups, a student activities theatre, comfortable living room settings, a grille and snack bar, a coffee house, a new bookstore and post office, and new professional space for the Student Development staff.

Simpson College Entrance

Simpson also renovated its outdoor track and football field. In addition to rebuilding the entrances and fences surrounding Bill Buxton stadium, the school invested in what has been dubbed the most innovative artificial turf system in the world, FieldTurf Revolution. The new-era Beynon BSS 1000 running track, similar to the new tracks installed at the University of Virginia and The University of Iowa, was also installed for the 2011–12 school year.[17] The renovation of Simpson's athletic facilities concluded in 2014 with the construction of a new bi-level weight room in the former pool area. This move was made possible by the construction of the Indianola YMCA, which has a 25-yard pool and hosts swimming meets for Simpson College, Indianola High School, and the YMCA Tide swim team.

Simpson offers a variety of residential housing options, including two first year-only residence halls, other traditional residence halls, apartment-style living, theme houses and an active Greek system. All Simpson living facilities include air conditioning, lofted beds, carpet, furniture, social lounges and wireless internet.

Organization and administration

The college had an endowment of $78.6 million as of February 10, 2017.[18]


Simpson's curriculum includes more than 70 majors, minors, and pre-professional programs. Coursework is structured in a 4-4-1 format, with classes running September–December and January–April before the three-week May Term. This provides students with many unique learning opportunities, including internship programs, career observations and a variety of Study Abroad programs that take place over May Term.

Beginning in Fall 2011, most courses at Simpson are four-credit courses. Simpson also implemented their new Engaged Citizenship Curriculum, which is largely based on the AAC&U Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) initiative. The new curriculum attempts to build seven different Embedded Skills into all courses. The seven skills are:

In addition to classes in their major, students are required to take courses in seven specified Areas of Engagement:

In order to meet the global perspectives Area of Engagement, many students will take an overseas course, which may be completed throughout an entire semester (with exchange programs in London, Germany, Chile, Thailand, and Tahiti) or over May Term, which provides different selections every year. Some of the recent May Term travel courses include trips to China, Thailand, Italy, London, Paris, Ghana, Belize, and the Netherlands. Simpson ranks among the nation's top 100 colleges in the percentage of students who study abroad, according to U.S. News & World Report.[19]

In addition to these requirements, students also take two courses to bookend their Simpson Experience: the Simpson Colloquium and the Senior Capstone. The Simpson Colloquium is taken during the first semester of college and is designed to help students make the transition to college life. The Senior Capstone is a culminating project in each student's major demonstrating their proficiency in a chosen field of study.


Simpson is notable for being the only college in the United States with an entirely student-cast undergraduate opera program that is supported by a largely professional orchestra. Two fully staged productions a year with admission open to the public and free to all students are staples of the Simpson calendar. Alumni can be found at the highest levels in opera performance, artistic administration, and music education.

Music at Simpson has been fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music since 1947, and confers the degrees of Bachelor of Music in performance and in music education, and the Bachelor of Arts in music. It is widely recognized as offering a premier education for vocal, piano, and instrumental students. Simpson develops the unique gifts of each student through a combination of one-to-one music instruction, classroom teaching, and countless performance opportunities. Aspects of the program have been cited as "outstanding" by U.S. News & World Report and the program in voice as "exceptional" by the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

Simpson College enjoys a historic close partnership with the Des Moines Metro Opera, which makes it home on the Simpson campus over the summer, with performances in Simpson's Blank Performing Arts Center. It provides Simpson students with the invaluable opportunity to experience professional opera on their doorstep, and to serve as interns and production staff in the summer opera festival. Many singers from Simpson have taken part in the DMMO Apprenticeship Program, an opportunity afforded usually to only the most talented graduate students and young professional singers from all over the United States.

Speech and debate

Simpson runs a comprehensive program where students discover which style of speech or debate event offered best aligns with their long-term goals. The team competes in Public Forum, Parliamentary (NPDA & PLUM), International Public Debate (IPDA), NFA Lincoln-Douglas, Student Congress, and a wide variety of speech events.[20] It is coached by Spencer Waugh.[21][22]

The team has won the Phi Kappa Delta Debate Championship four times: 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2021.[23]


Simpson College athletic teams are nicknamed the Storm. They compete in the American Rivers Conference in NCAA Division III. Simpson fields men's teams in baseball, basketball, cross country, American football, golf, soccer, tennis, track & field, and wrestling. Women's teams include: basketball, cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track & field, and volleyball. Simpson also fields cheerleading and dance squads.

Simpson College has appeared in the NCAA tournament many times:

The Storm has achieved the honor of being Regional Champions also:

The Simpson College softball team won the NCAA Division III National Championship in 1997 and 1999. Simpson's softball team appeared in one Women's College World Series in 1971.[24]

Gold Club

The Gold Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1976, funded by the Indianola community and Simpson alumni that helps support Simpson College athletics. Gold Club members are former athletes, alumni, faculty, parents, and other athletic supporters who share the common interest of fostering the development and growth of Simpson College athletics.[25]

Student life

The Simpsonian[26] is the student newspaper. The newspaper has been published since September 1870.[27] It provides formal practical experience for students interested in journalism and serves as a forum for student opinions and ideas.

Sequel is an annual Simpson literary arts magazine, assembled from student and faculty contributions including paintings, photographs, drawings, short fiction, and short non-fiction.

KSTM, 88.9, is the student-operated campus radio station. It has limited wattage and the signal does not really carry outside of Warren County.

Intramurals allow students, faculty, and staff to become involved in recreational activities. The campus community is invited to participate, and participants may do as many activities as they wish. Over 60% of the campus participates in one or more of the programs offered through the Office of Intramurals and Recreation. Events are widely varied and skill or expertise is not a requirement when participating in events. The goal is to participate and have fun.

The Campus Activities Board (CAB) is one of the main programming organizations on campus.

Simpson Forum

Throughout the school year, Simpson holds numerous forum events. These are events that are meant to extend a student's education beyond the classroom and allow for personal growth. These events include Simpson-produced arts events, faculty-organized discussions, research symposiums, and expert speakers from outside of Simpson who discuss a wide range of topics. Recent experts include Gabriel Ajak, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, former U.S. Senator John Culver, and former U.S. Senator and presidential nominee George McGovern among others. Forum events are a requirement for first-year students, as they must attend at least four events throughout the fall semester, but are optional beyond that. Simpson also offers an additional credit to students who attend at least 90% of designated forum events in a semester.

John C. Culver Public Policy Center

The Culver Center was established at Simpson College in 2010 to honor the service of John Culver, who served the people of Iowa for 16 years in the US House of Representatives and US Senate. The Culver Center is dedicated to encouraging civic engagement and public service. The program awards four-year scholarships to up to select incoming Simpson students who demonstrate a commitment to public service and civic engagement. The annual John C. Culver Lecture brings a prominent figure in public service or politics to campus to meet with students and deliver a lecture, which is open to the public. Lectures have included Senator George McGovern, Political Journalist Mark Shields, Supreme Court Reporter Linda Greenhouse, and former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.[28]

Campus Day

Campus Day has been an annual tradition at Simpson College since at least 1911. The idea was conceived by the student body to suspend classes on one Tuesday of the year and put in a day of cleaning campus buildings and grounds. Faculty did not know until they arrived at campus to start classes, but were glad to pitch in.[29] The cleanup of campus became an annual tradition and eventually expanded to the Indianola community. Today, nearly 60% of Simpson students take part in campus day activities, which include campus-assigned projects, a grill out, and a late night dodgeball tournament. Historically, Campus Day was picked early in the year by the student government and reserved as a surprise to the rest of the student body, but today it is announced ahead of time so that students can plan ahead for it.[30]

Greek life

Simpson College has a deep-rooted Greek life history. It is home to eight Greek organizations: three national fraternities; Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Alpha Tau Omega, Lambda Chi Alpha, one local fraternity; Kappa Theta Psi, and four national sororities; Kappa Kappa Gamma, Pi Beta Phi, Delta Delta Delta, and Sigma Lambda Gamma. Every April, one week is set aside in the Greek community for Greek Week, a series of coed competitions that instill a sense of unity among the houses, while providing friendly competitiveness.

Notable people


  1. ^ a b c "Campus and Facilities History".
  2. ^ "Higher Learning Commission".
  3. ^ "Members of CIC".
  4. ^ "Accredited Institutions Search".
  5. ^ As of May 31, 2013. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 14, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2010.
  6. ^ "Simpson College Names Marsha Kelliher As President". Simpson College. March 31, 2020. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  7. ^ "Simpson College Names John Woell As Senior Vice President & Academic Dean". Simpson College. May 27, 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d "College Navigator - Simpson College".
  9. ^ "Simpson".
  10. ^ "Simpson College Unveils New Mascot "Thunder"". KNAI-KRLS. 14 September 2021. Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  11. ^ "Our campuses".
  12. ^ Fuson, Ken. "National champs! Simpson debaters bring home title". The Des Moines Register.
  13. ^ "Simpson Debate Team Captures National Title — Again!". Archived from the original on 2018-03-25.
  14. ^ "Simpson Earns Top-10 Regional Ranking from U.S. News & World Report".
  15. ^ "About".
  16. ^ a b c d e f "Past Presidents".
  17. ^ "FieldTurf: Simpson College goes first class with FieldTurf Revolution and Beynon Surfaces".
  18. ^ "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2016 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2015 to FY 2016" (PDF). 2016 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-02-15. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  19. ^ "Quick Facts". Simpson College.
  20. ^ "Debate".
  21. ^ "Speech and Debate". Simpson College. Retrieved 2021-10-11.
  22. ^ "Spencer Waugh". Simpson College. Retrieved 2021-10-11.
  23. ^ "Speech and Debate". Simpson College. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  24. ^ Plummer, William; Floyd, Larry C. (2013). A Series Of Their Own: History Of The Women's College World Series. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States: Turnkey Communications Inc. ISBN 978-0-9893007-0-4.
  25. ^ "Simpson Gold Club". Retrieved October 16, 2022.
  26. ^ "The Simpsonian". Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  27. ^ "About Us - The Simpsonian". Archived from the original on 2011-10-02.
  28. ^ "Home".
  29. ^ "Campus Day". Archived from the original on 2011-11-09. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
  30. ^ "Campus Day History – Simpson College". Archived from the original on 2012-09-01.
  31. ^ a b c d e Simpson College Greek Life. "Simpson College Greek Chapters" Archived 2010-04-13 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved on 2010-1-23.
  32. ^ "George Washington Carver" Retrieved on 2013-09-18
  33. ^ "Avery O. Craven Room | Simpson College". Archived from the original on 2019-07-03.
  34. ^ Metzger, Sherry. "Bilateral Amputee Named in Top 25 NCAA Moments: College Wrestling Champion Nick Ackerman", The O&P Edge, June 2006. Retrieved on 2007-10-25.
  35. ^ "Meet Your Clerk".
  36. ^ "David Orr Bio and work experience. - David Orr, Cook County Clerk". David Orr, Cook County Clerk.
  37. ^ "Mike Pearson '10".