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Paul Simpson Memorial Page

In Memoriam: Paul Simpson

Paul B. Simpson (1914-2013)

Paul B. Simpson passed away peacefully on Jan 21, 2013 at his home in Eugene.


Paul was a member of the UO Economics Department from 1949 to his retirement in 1979.


During his career he published research in some of the most prestigious academic journals in the profession, including outlets such as American Economic Review, Econometrica, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Review of Economics and Statistics, and Journal of the American Statistical Association.  Paul helped to create the UO economics PhD program and subsequently chaired/served on many PhD dissertation committees, in addition to teaching and mentoring countless undergraduates.

Current department head, Van Kolpin, states, “The universal respect and admiration that I have heard expressed of Paul by his former students and past colleagues is truly extraordinary. I arrived at the UO years after Paul had retired and only had the good fortune to meet him a handful of times but each such occasion left me increasingly impressed with his grace, good humor, and keen intellect.”

His former colleague Joe Stone comments, “It was my delight to get to know Paul in my first years here. Paul struck me as a very smart economist who was generous in both mind and spirit. In my early years at Oregon, long after his retirement, Paul would come to seminars and always have something very insightful to add.

“Here are a few things about Paul some may not know. He served a term as president of the Western Economics Association, and his 1950 Econometrica paper on price expectations of entrepreneurs contained a more than respectable portion of the insights that were later formulated more generally by Muth, who was roughly his contemporary. Last but not least, Paul at one point during the 1970s inflation, invested in gold mining in streams in the cascades. He might even have had his own sluice box. When was the last time any of us sluiced for gold?”


His former Ph.D. student Ernie Ankrim (retired Chief Investment Strategist, Russell Investment Group) offered these reflections:  “Beyond his grace and generosity I found his patience with me and my work critical to my progress and improvements to my dissertation. An amazing story: Paul once took a fellow UO grad student on a long hiking trek in the Northwest Territories of Canada one summer.  They were dropped in by float plane and planned to meet up at a designated lake two weeks later. Either the pilot screwed up or they got lost but they weren’t recovered for about three weeks longer than they expected. Water wasn’t a problem but food was. Beyond edible plants the only thing else they ate during their extended days was LARD! Both lost somewhere between 30-40 pounds. This was in the days way before GPS so their adventure was truly life-threatening. I was aghast, but Paul told the story with the classic ‘glint in his eyes.’ A great economist, a wonderful person, but someone whose risk tolerance was beyond my comprehension.  We’ve all been lucky to have him in our lives.”

SimpsonHike (1)

Paul was a fourth generation Oregonian, born on June 19, 1914 in Corvallis. He grew up in Portland, attended Reed College, majoring in mathematics. After graduation, he attended Cornell University on a scholarship where he received his doctorate in economics. Paul remained at Cornell and taught economics and statics, later going on to Princeton to teach, where he was thrilled to have witnessed Albert Einstein enjoying an ice cream. He then left Princeton and went to work at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington DC.


In 1943, Paul enlisted in the Navy and was sent to Long Beach, CA for a time. In 1944 he was deployed to Saipan and worked as a supply officer. Upon his discharge from the Navy, he continued his work, teaching at Stanford University. In 1949 Paul returned to Oregon to continue his teaching at the University of Oregon. He remained there until 1953 when he returned to the Federal Reserve Board for two years, retuning again to Eugene and the University of Oregon where he remained until his retirement in 1979.

During this time he traveled to Seoul Korea for three months, taking along his son David, and in 1966 he traveled to Merida, Venezuela, to assist the University of the Andes through the Ford Foundation, bringing his family with him.

Paul was a man with a vast array of interests. He enjoyed camping, hiking, and kayaking with his family all over the United States. He loved traveling to Europe, South America, Australia, China, Africa, and Indonesia. Paul loved the arts, enjoying museums all over the world, theater, and most especially music. He played beautiful piano and viola, and one of his passions was the Eugene Symphony.


Paul also loved gardening, owning 10 acres in Creswell where he grew many fruits and vegetables—he even built a large green house to grow hybrid tomatoes. He was involved in the creation of the Hult Center, and was one of the founders of the Pearl Buck Center.

Paul met and married Jean Wright Miller in Ithaca, NY in 1936. They were married for nearly 40 years until her passing in 1978. They had four children together: Robert of Cornelius, OR; David (who has preceded Paul in death in 2011) of Long Beach, CA; Malcolm of Springfield, OR; and Claire Simpson Ranney of Eugene. After Paul’s retirement he moved back to Portland, where he became reacquainted with his high school and college friend Ellen Coleman McGruetter. The two married in 1985 and remained married for 18 years until her passing in 2003. Along with his two sons and daughter, he is survived by three grandchildren, three great grandchildren, and four stepchildren.

Paul was a brilliant, diverse man who was loved and adored greatly by his family and many friends. His interests, stories, singing, and playing the piano will be so very missed