The standard-setting co-founder and first president of Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Howard Simpson has died at 97. Guided by Simpson’s expertise, SGH fast became one of the nation’s best for solving complex engineering problems in structural mechanics.
Simpson, P.E., F.ASCE, launched SGH in 1956 along with two of his academic colleagues. His know-how in engineering mechanics and precision structures – such as radars, antennas, and radio and optical telescopes – as well as in developing computer models of significant structures, was crucial to success. He was head of the firm’s Engineering Mechanics division until 1989 and also its first chief executive officer (1983-95).
After serving 12 years as an MIT professor teaching graduate courses in structural analysis, reinforced concrete and shell design, he brought a bright, unfaded but business-minded outlook to the firm he helped establish, and where he is remembered for his innovative leadership in the AEC field.
“Howard Simpson’s … critical thinking, technical expertise, and leadership were guideposts for SGH for his entire career and continue to inspire us today,” said Charles Russo, current SGH CEO and senior principal.
Indeed, Simpson’s team was known for hiring those they deemed smarter than they. But it was his own perseverance and technical acuity that led to such notable accomplishments as NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in 1963 (just named an ASCE Historic Civil Engineering Landmark), or the Multiple Mirror Telescope at the Whipple Observatory in 1975. He also pushed the industry for computer use in finite element analysis.
Simpson’s active involvement in the profession extended many years. He was a Life Member of ASCE, and served as a member and leader with the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, American Concrete Institute, Applied Technology Council, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other organizations.
His harmonizing love of art and painting helped bring a museum art-lending program to the SGH headquarters. Other passions of Simpson’s were traveling, poetry and photography.