Simpson political science professor retires after more than 40 years


Photo by Coby Berg

by Coby Berg, Staff Writer

The year is 1977, and a young man fresh out of the University of Virginia is on his way to the small town of Indianola, Iowa to start a new chapter in his life.

This young man had never been a professor but had a strong passion for what was to come from this new experience.

After being hired as a full-time professor just weeks before the school year was to start, he had much to learn.

Little did John Epperson know, he would remain at Simpson for more than 40 years.

He is a professor of political science, was raised in Kentucky, where he got his bachelor’s degree at Center College. He would later go to graduate school at the University of Virginia to get his master’s degree before coming to Simpson.

Epperson came to Simpson College in the fall of 1977 in early August to teach in the political science department. During that time, he continued to work on his education and got his doctorate from the University of Virginia in 1980.

Before arriving at Simpson, Epperson had never lived in Iowa or worked in the state.

“There was no orientation to teaching. No one told me how to run the class or even how long the classes were,” Epperson said. “I had to learn how to communicate the subject matter but be able to teach the students what they needed to know. It took awhile to fully understand it.”

After getting established at Simpson, Epperson then focused on his relationships with his students.

“If I were to teach at a large school, I would have never been able to meet all my students,” he said, later adding, “If I’m lucky, I get to form a friendship with the student.”

Epperson makes it a point to reach out and understand his students and build relationships with them on a personal level.

He made himself extremely available for diving deep into various political science and legal doctrines and theories but also for conversations about life,” said Steven Alan Ramsey, a 2011 Simpson graduate. “He invited me into his home, and I became good friends with his wife and three beautiful daughters. His mustache has always been legendary as well. They do not make ’em like John Epperson anymore.”

Epperson is known by staff and students alike for the relationships that he builds with people and for his many notable accomplishments.

“I hear a lot about his teaching from students and I feel the students appreciate how he livens up the class with current political debates and a little bit of college basketball here and there,” Bardwell said.

“He has been involved in campus. He has been here for a long time but he has been heavily committed in service to the college. He is dedicated to helping staff and students with any problems,” said Kedron Bardwell, a fellow Simpson political science professor. “One thing for sure is that he will be missed by staff and students alike.”

Epperson has been know to argue with students about basketball, which fostered his relationship with his former student Steven Alan Ramsey.

“His significant intelligence and rational thought ends where sports begin,” Ramsey said. “To this day he believes Kentucky to be a superior basketball program to the University of Kansas. Clearly, he is wrong. He also thought Michael Jordan was better than Kobe Bryant. Again, clearly wrong.”

After retirement Epperson plans to spend as much time possible with his wife and children.

“My wife and I plan to do some traveling. We booked a river tour in Europe. I plan on visiting my children who live across the country. I have also taken up photography with my wife.”