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

Geer, signing off
Geer, signing off
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So long, farewell, I’ve got no more stories to tell
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Unlike my fellow student media seniors who’ve written this before me, I came into Simpson knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I did independent...

Byers reflects on his first year as Simpson’s president

Jay Byers
Photo from
Jay Byers

“I remember the first time I stepped foot on campus, and I thought, ‘wow, what a beautiful place. This looks like what a college is supposed to look like,’” Simpson College President Jay Byers said.

As the end of the academic year quickly approaches, so does President Jay Byers’ first year as president. Byers began his presidency on July 31, 2023, and has since served the Simpson community with a smile and a bowtie. 

“It’s been exciting, it’s been rewarding, and it’s also challenging, right?” said Byers. “It’s a hard job. Since it means so much to me, I want to make sure I’m doing the very best I can because I want to make sure this place is successful, not only now but for a long time to come.”

Byers was one of the candidates from the national search Simpson conducted to find a new president after former president Marsha Kelliher announced her retirement. Byers, a Simpson alum, was the Des Moines Partnership’s CEO and a Simpson’s Board of Trustees member when Kelliher announced her resignation.

“This is a job that I’d never really thought I would do,” said Byers. “I always thought I would work in public policy or in government, something like that.”

Byers studied political science at Simpson, then moved on to law school at the University of Iowa. While working for a member of Congress in Iowa, he became an adjunct professor at Simpson, teaching political science courses in the adult learning program.

Despite living away from Iowa while working at a law firm in Indiana, he kept coming back to Simpson.

“Once you’re part of that Simpson family, that’s a lifelong commitment,” Byers said. “That’s a lifelong commitment from all of us to all of you, and vice versa because once you are part of the Simpson family, you’re part of the Simpson family forever.”

Byers was suggested to apply for the open position of president but wanted to make sure Simpson was given the best opportunity to succeed. 

“I said, ‘I’ll throw my hat in the ring, but only if you do a national search,’ and the reason I said that was because I wanted to make sure that it suits Simpon because I love this place,” he said. “I wanted to make sure Simpson was going to hire the best president and if it wasn’t me, I was fine with that.”

Despite the national search, Byers was chosen by the college and has since become a symbol for Simpson students. Always in a bowtie, even when playing pickleball, Byers said he attends all campus events he can to support the students and their work.

“The best part, by far, is the students,” Byers said. “I like to remind people all the time, it’s all about students.”

When asked about his iconic bowties, Byers stated there wasn’t really a story to it. He said he has been wearing bowties for around seven years simply because he wanted to learn how to tie a bowtie.

“I was at a conference, probably seven, eight years ago, and they were selling bowties. I said ‘Well, I’ll buy a bowtie but only if you teach me how to tie it.’ So I basically bought a bowtie and a 45-minute lesson on how to tie a bowtie,” said Byers. 

Byers says he is excited about the changes coming to Simpson. He said his mission is to keep Simpson evolving and growing with its students. Byers said that next year’s focus will be on infrastructure from housing to dining spaces.

“We’re spending quite a bit of time looking at Pfeiffer Dining Hall and doing a major renovation,” Byers said. “We’re looking at what we can do with Great Hall, perhaps a multicultural center.”

Though his first year as president is ending, Byers is excited for what’s next. He says he is hopeful the college will continue to grow and wishes graduating and returning students a happy summer. 

“I hope everybody has a great summer! For those of you who are coming back, I can’t wait to see you next year,” said Byers. “And for those of you who are graduating, come back for homecoming, come back often. You’re always part of that Simpson family.”

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Kenzie Van Haaften
Kenzie Van Haaften, Staff Reporter

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