In 1953, Wallace Simpson graduated from Belview High School.
For Simpson, the plan was to become an art and history teacher. So, he began pursuit of that degree at Mankato State University.
Life changed two years later when he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the role of military police.
“Our unit was one of those chosen to provide security for President Eisenhower’s inauguration,” said Simpson.
Following his stint in the military, Simpson returned to college. There he earned his art and degrees in 1958, and over the years Simpson furthered his education with a Masters degree in educational administration from the University of Minnesota in 1959. He also earned a doctorate degree in education administration from the University of South Dakota in 1967.
Simpson began his teaching career in Willmar where he taught art and history. Simpson served as vice-principal of Willmar Senior High School and a teacher of art and history at the Armed Forces Dependents’ School in Baumholder, Germany.
“I was founding president of Rainy River Community College, International Falls, where we also served the Nett Lake Indian Reservation,” said Simpson.
He has also served as president of Inver Hills Community College, Inver Grove Heights, where he helped to establish an educational center and transportation to serve inner city students.
Simpson furthered his career as president of Mesa Community College in Arizona where he helped establish Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
According to Simpson, “one of the faculty at Mesa, a prominent Native American, helped that college become a model in both recruitment and retention of Native American students.”
Simpson has served as president of Olympic College in Bremerton, Wash. where he started two branch campuses in Poulsbo and Shelton.
“Human rights, diversity, programs for Native Americans, Hispanics and veterans and handicapped accessible facilities and childcare centers were emphasized at the colleges I served,” said Simpson.
Simpson retired in 1996 after 29 years as a college president and now spends seven months of the year on Rainy Lake in Minnesota and five months in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Simpson has been married to Rose (Gryting) of Belview for nearly 61 years, and they have three children, all of whom graduated from a community college before going on for other degrees.
Robin, a Georgetown University graduate, is an attorney in Minneapolis; Nicole is president of the Band Boosters (representing 300 band members) in Farmington and was a journalist for newspapers in International Falls and Shakopee and Christopher is principal of Chehalis, Wash., Middle School.
The Simpsons also have seven grandchildren: Bonnie, Ben, Ellie, Eva, Kennedy, Tanner and Grace.
Simpson, who will be inducted into the Redwood Valley Hall of Fame in May, said he considers it an honor to be selected for induction and to join alumni, staff, faculty, community and student scholarship winners in honoring education.