The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

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Simpson’s hidden history

Courtesy Jay Byers’ Instagram
The Centenary scroll was signed in 1961 by many notable figures to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the college.

   A college that is over a century old can lose things to time and, sometimes, they’ll turn up in unexpected ways. Like a scroll signed by President Eisenhower and Helen Keller that was hiding in a storage room.

   Brian Schultes of campus services had known of the artifacts for a while, but it wasn’t until President Byers came to campus that they would see light once again.

   “I knew it was up there,” Schultes said. “We always refer to it as the creepy bedroom. And I mentioned something to him about the creepy bedroom having Matthew Simpson furniture up there. And he mentioned that he would like to have it in the president’s house, so I took him up there just so he could see it. And he saw all the old stuff on the wall and the old stuff in the cabinet and just fell in love with it.”

   Most notable was the Centenary scroll from 1961.

   During the 1960-61 academic year, Simpson celebrated its hundredth anniversary, or centennial. At the commencement in early June 1961, alumni Harold Dudley, a public relations consultant of Washington D.C. and member of the College’s New Developmental Council, presented to Dr. Kerstetter, Simpson’s president at the time, a framed scroll congratulating Simpson College on its hundred years, signed by a number of notable names.

   Including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Helen Keller, Marian Anderson, two former Simpson presidents, Gross and Voigt, then Governor of Iowa Norma Erbe, and presidents from the University of Iowa, Iowa State and Drake, along with many others.

   President Byers posted the scroll on his Instagram, bringing attention back to the historical piece.

   “It was just sort of sitting in storage, and I mean, just hanging on the wall there, but no one ever goes in there,” Byers said. “And I said, ‘Hey, maybe we should have it in the president’s office or put it in the Sigler house,’ and he said, ‘Let’s do it’.”

   It originally hung in the President’s Office from 1961 to 1988.

   But that wasn’t the only thing that College Hall was hiding.

   “A bedroom set that was donated from Matthew Simpson and that’s going into the Sigler house, the president’s house,” Byers said. “And there’s a letter by John Wesley, which is a great story too.”

   The furniture was received by Simpson College from the estate of Methodist Bishop Matthew Simpson, whom the college is named after. The letter, dated Nov. 1, 1881, is from Simpson’s good friend George Mather, presenting Bishop Simpson with an additional letter dated June 1, 1776, which is an original written by John Wesley, Methodist church founder. 

   Both letters share a frame and are hanging in the President’s Office alongside the centennial scroll.

   According to Cyd Dyer, the college archivist, in October 1988, the third floor of College Hall was dedicated as the Alumni Memorial Center. The Center included the Whispering Maples Room, the Red and Gold Room, and the Matthew Simpson bedroom alcove.

   Over the years, the Alumni Memorial Center became a home for Financial Aid and then more offices for Admissions. There was concern about the archival items in the alcove, but no new space was designated for the items. 

   In a full circle story, the bedroom furnishings and other items are back in Sigler House, and the scroll (as well as the letter) is again hung in the President’s Office, though that may not be its permanent home.

   “Maybe the proper place is Dunn Library,” Byers said. “That might be a long-term, proper home. It’s just that people should see it.”

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Jenna Prather, Editor-in-Chief
Kyle Werner, Managing Editor & Social Media Manager

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