Northwestern University trustee, alumnus and benefactor Louis A. Simpson passed away on Jan. 8, 2022, following a prolonged illness. He was 85.
Known across campus as a great and generous friend of Northwestern, Simpson and his wife, Kimberly Querrey, have supported the University in countless ways for the past two decades, including a $92 million gift in 2015 for biomedical research.
“Lou distinguished himself as a giant in the world of investing, then went on to become one of the foremost champions of our University, alongside his beloved wife, Kimberly,” said Northwestern President Morton Schapiro. “Northwestern couldn’t be what it is today without him, and his name will live on in perpetuity on our campuses because of his vision for funding world-class work in science, medicine, engineering and business. He was also one of the most faithful and loyal supporters of Wildcat athletics. I will miss him dearly as a friend, as will countless others.”
‘The bright light in a room’
Simpson and Querrey, a current Charter Trustee, have made widespread contributions totaling more than $250 million in Campaign giving to areas at Northwestern, including the Feinberg School of Medicine, the McCormick School of Engineering, the Kellogg School of Management, as well as athletics and many other schools, programs, scholarships, endowed academic positions and building projects.
In recognition of their incredible generosity, the Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center was named in their honor. The center, which officially opened in June 2019 as the largest new building solely dedicated to biomedical research at an American medical school, facilitates scientific discoveries that will translate to better care for patients in Chicago and worldwide.
“Lou Simpson was a great man. He had an authentic moral dignity anchored to a deep commitment to science and education through philanthropy,” said Dr. Eric G. Neilson, Lewis Landsberg Dean and Vice President for Medical Affairs at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. “A brilliant investor, Lou was instinctively curious, funny and quick to make you a friend, always remembering what you needed — he was the bright light in a room, and everyone drew close. Lou Simpsons only come around once in a while, and it was a privilege to cross his life orbit. I am sure he never prayed for a celebrated life. I suspect he prayed to be a kind person — and that he was.”
Also in 2019, they gifted funding to create the Querrey Simpson Institute for Bioelectronics, which is the hub of Northwestern’s thrust of research and innovation in this area, providing the materials science and technology foundations for multidisciplinary collaborations at the intersections of engineering, science and medicine.
“I am truly blessed to have had the privilege of Lou’s friendship for nearly a decade — an individual of tremendous talent, accomplishment and wisdom who dedicated the latter part of his life to philanthropy and mentorship, revolving strongly around education and medicine, ” said bioelectronics pioneer John Rogers, the Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Neurological Surgery in the McCormick School of Engineering and Feinberg School of Medicine, and director of the Querrey Simpson Institute for Bioelectronics. “His commitment to Northwestern generally, and to our programs here at the institute specifically, will be felt by students, faculty and staff for many generations to come. Results of their collective efforts will yield broad, profound benefits to society, in exactly the way that Lou envisioned.”
Board member, alumni medalist and ‘professor at heart’
Simpson, a resident of Naples, Florida, was born in Chicago on Dec. 23, 1936. He grew up in Highland Park, Illinois, with his parents, Irving and Lillian Simpson.
He joined Northwestern’s Board of Trustees in 2006 and became a life trustee in 2010. He was an active member of the investment, educational properties and finance committees, and he previously served on the audit, risk and compliance committee.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague Lou,” said J. Landis Martin, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. “He was a giant in his field, and his contributions to Northwestern’s strategic positioning for future success — through his and Kimberly’s incredible philanthropic generosity and his devoted trusteeship — have had an immeasurable impact on the University he cared about so much. Lou will be greatly missed.”
In 2016, Simpson was appointed senior fellow and adjunct professor of finance at the Kellogg School of Management. He was also an active member of Kellogg’s Asset Management Practicum advisory council since 2017. Simpson received the Northwestern Alumni Medal in 2018.
“Truth be told, Lou was a professor at heart,” said his wife, Kimberly Querrey. “While he appreciated sharing his insights as a trustee and the intellectual aspects of supporting biomedical research and technological innovation, it was the personal interaction with students and professors that gave him the greatest pleasure.”
“Lou Simpson was a wonderful human being and dear friend to Kellogg,” said Francesca Cornelli, dean of the Kellogg School of Management. “He was an investment titan by any measure, but also incredibly humble. We are so grateful that he would spend time generously sharing his knowledge and insight with our students, faculty and alumni. People would come from miles around to have a chance to engage with him, and, for many students, it was the highlight of their time at Kellogg.”
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1958 (Hon. LL.D. 2013) with highest honors and received a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship, followed by a master’s degree in economics from Princeton University.
Investing became Simpson’s career passion, and, like all things in his life, he pursued his interests with unmatched intellect, energy and independent analysis. His approach to stock research involved voraciously reading everything available on a company and then getting comfortable with management. His methods stayed steady over the decades. Reams of newspapers, journals and SEC filings were his go-to resources.
Simpson devoted more than 30 years of his career to Geico Corporation, the auto insurer owned by Warren Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
During his 17-year stint as president and CEO of Geico Capital Operations, his portfolio returns consistently broke industry records. He was widely recognized for his business acumen — including by Buffett himself — as an extraordinary investor.
Most recently, he had served as chair of Gulf Shore Private Capital LLC, established in 2019. And previously, he was chair of the money management firm SQ Advisors LLC from 2011 to 2019.
Simpson also served as lead director of VeriSign and in 2006 was named an Outstanding Director by the Outstanding Directors Exchange. Formerly he was director of a number of publicly traded companies including AT&T, Chesapeake Energy, COHR Inc., Comcast, Geico, HNC Software, Magma Power, MediaOne, Potomac Electric Power, National Bank of Washington, ResMed, Science Applications International Corporation, Salomon Inc., Thompson BPE, U.S. West and Western Assets Funds.
He served as vice chair of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation as well as on the boards of Azul 3D, Stoicheia and Sibel Health.
Prior to joining Geico, Simpson was president and CEO of Western Asset Management. Earlier in his career, he was a partner at Stein, Roe and Farnham, a Chicago investment firm, and an instructor of economics at Princeton.
Simpson and Querrey also support the Big Shoulders Fund, a nonprofit that assists Catholic schools in Chicago.
Simpson is survived by his wife, Kimberly Querrey; his three sons: Irving, Kenneth and Edward “Ted,” a 1996 Kellogg graduate; his five grandchildren: Allie McGuire, and Tyler, Kennedy, Palmer and Beckett Simpson; his three great-grandchildren, Lachlan, Clementine and Hamish; his nephews Andrew and Robert Querrey; and his “naughter,” Melissa Querrey, an M.D./Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern.