Simpson College and community remember DiPalma


by Katie Anthony

Hundreds of people met in the Chapel on Thursday, March 24 to share memories of Maria DiPalma, the former professor and chair for the department of music who passed away after a courageous battle with cancer.

The crowd included former and current students, faculty, staff, family and community members. All came to pay respect to this beloved “eccentric” woman.

Simpson College President John Byrd opened the ceremony with a background on DiPalma and the significance that she had on his life.

“My first encounter with her came after the conclusion (of a) very long day of interviewing for the presidency here at Simpson,” Byrd said. “Maria was serving as a member on the search board and invited me to join her and Marilyn Mueller for a glass of wine at her home…I quickly learned that it was not only her house that had a big personality.”

Both the Madrigal Choir and the Chamber Singers paid their tributes to DiPalma by singing different psalms, and filling the chapel with their voices.

Professor of Music Robert Larsen also shared his memories of DiPalma and the experience that he shared working with her for so many years.

“Her conversations and her laughter lightened every situation she took on,” Larsen said. “Maria was filled with enthusiasm for so many things: for family, for science, for cooking, for traveling…frustrated with physical concerns, nothing got in the way of performing her passions with flair and precision.”

Simpson alumnus Teri Herron also spoke about an emotional phone call she had with DiPalma the day DiPalma made the move into hospice.

“We talked briefly about her decision and why she made it,” Herron said. “Her sense of humor was certainly intact. Then she asked me about teaching…I said ‘we teach them as long as we’ve got them and then we throw them out into the world’ and then there was a long silence. And then she said ‘and we hope it sticks.'”

Herron then spoke about how DiPalma’s teaching influences all who sought her out, and how no one could “ignore Maria.”

Herron ended her memorial speech of DiPalma speaking the words that the congregation seemed to be thinking.

“Maria,” Herron said. “It stuck. It stuck.”