What’s in a Simpson name?


by Matt Bower

Mary Berry. Kresge. Buxton. Simpson’s buildings aren’t named for just anybody.

“Buildings are named for heroes of history or people whose generosity was so great,” Professor Emeritus Joe Walt said. “These buildings are pretty darn well-named.”

An explanation of the history behind some of the names of campus buildings can be found in Dunn Library as a part of a new display: “What’s in a Name?”

Cyd Dyer, college librarian and archivist, started the project last year. She is in charge of the series of displays at Dunn.

“Students and faculty are here and use the buildings, but they may wonder who the buildings are named after and why,” Dyer said. “Most people know the names of the buildings but they don’t know why the buildings have those names.”

Last year Dyer concentrated on Pote Theater and she plans on covering the Greek houses in the future.

“It’s both entertaining and educational for the Simpson community,” Dyer said.

Freshman Stacia Weinman agrees.

“It’s important for people to know where they’re living and who’s behind the name of the building,” Weinman said.

The Weinman apartments are named after Weinman’s grandfather and Simpson alumnus, Jim Weinman.

“He used to own the building and then he sold it to Simpson,” Weinman said. “They decided to name it after him.”

The Weinman apartments aren’t part of the display because Dyer didn’t have any information on Weinman. Buildings featured in the display include Mary Berry Hall, Kresge Hall, Barker Hall and Buxton Hall.

The Ladies Boarding Hall was the first student resident hall on campus, housing 64 women who paid $2.50 per week for room and meals. The hall was later named Mary Berry to honor the daughter of former Simpson President Thomas S. Berry.

Berry died in 1903 as student at Simpson and in 1908 the hall was named after her.

In 1949, the women moved to a new hall, which would later be named Kresge Hall. The first two floors of Mary Berry were converted to offices for faculty and men moved into the third floor.

In 1962, an addition was built onto the new hall and it was named Kresge Hall. It was named in honor of the Kresge Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Kresge who gave a sizeable donation when the western half was added.

The first men’s dorm was built on the practice football field in 1954 and housed 120 men. In 1964 it was named Barker Hall for Clare Wright Barker, class of 1916.

According to Walt, Barker went to Northwestern University for graduate school after he left Simpson.

“He was busy with academic work at Simpson, lived at home, wasn’t interested in sports, and didn’t participate in Greek life,” Walt said. “The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity headquarters are across the street from Northwestern and while there, he ran into Bill Levere, the national executive secretary for the SAE fraternity, and was initiated into SAE.”

Walt said from there Barker went on to Indiana University where he became the Dean of the School of Business Administration.

“In the mid 1950s, Simpson decided to re-establish its SAE chapter and asked me if I’d help out since I had been a member,” Walt said. “I got a letter from Barker that said he noticed me in the SAE magazine and he was very glad I had chosen to go to Simpson. I wrote him back, informing him of our plan to re-establish our SAE chapter, and asked if he would be willing to help.”

According to Walt, Barker phoned him after receiving his letter and was immensely helpful in getting the chapter re-established.

“The upshot of it was when the college was building the fraternities, each organization had to come up with one third of the cost, about $35,000, and we didn’t have it but we were going to get it,” Walt said. “Barker said he would lend us the money and we could pay him back whenever we were ready.”

Walt said Barker suffered a heart attack and died while on a ship traveling to Europe.

“I got a phone call from an attorney in Indiana who said I’d be interested to know that Barker had left the college his entire inheritance,” Walt said. “It was about $25 million, which was the largest gift Simpson had received up to that point.”

Buxton Hall was formerly called Franklin Hall because it was built at the corner of Franklin and E Street.

Franklin Hall was built in 1967 and renamed Buxton Hall in 1972 to honor four generations of Buxtons at Simpson, especially William Buxton III.

“He was a great leader of the town and a wonderful personality,” Walt said. “He was very involved with the community, often getting together with faculty members to play tennis.”

Walt said Buxton owned the Peoples Trust and Savings Bank, what is now Regions Bank on the east side of the Square, and it was the only bank out of the four in town that survived the depression.

“The Buxtons were heroes of the town,” Walt said. “Bill’s influence was such that he decided if you were a true citizen of the town.”

Walt said he hopes people understand it’s worth knowing who Simpson’s buildings are named after.

“It’s a small way of perpetuating the name of that person,” Walt said.