Obituaries detail

Dr. Richard L. Simpson
Jul 05,1945---Nov 21,2017

Dr. Richard (Rich) Simpson, 72, passed away unexpectedly on November 21, 2017, at his home in Leawood, Kansas.   Rich was born in Kansas City and remained a life-long resident in the area.


Rich was Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas in Special Education, retiring from full professor status in 2016 after 42 years.   He was an active member of the KU faculty, a leader in the profession of special education and autism, and a prolific writer.   He authored over 25 professional books and published more than 180 articles that have guided teachers and other practitioners for the last 40 years.  He presented extensively at professional conferences and meetings in the United States and abroad, acted as a consultant for numerous programs related to autism, as well as writing and acting as lead investigator on many federal research grants.   At the time of his passing he had just completed three additional books and was actively engaged in several professional endeavors.

Rich earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Baker University, where he was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.  During his undergraduate years, Rich served as Student Body President, President of Kappa Sigma and captain of the football team.  He took his M.S. in Psychology at Fort Hays State University, and his Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Kansas, graduating with honors.


Early in his career he worked as a school and clinical psychologist and continued as a clinical psychologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center while pursuing his doctoral degree in special education.  Rich began working at KU as an Assistant Professor in 1973.  During his career at KU, he led the longest running teacher education program in the country for teachers of students with autism. His program produced teachers, teacher educators, researchers, and supervisors who work in schools throughout the nation.  His former doctoral and masters students can be found on university campuses across the United States and in foreign countries providing leadership for special education, autism education, and the rights of students with social and emotional disabilities. Other professional roles included coordinating a community mental health outreach program at the Crittenden Center and directing several demonstration programs for students with autism spectrum disorders at the University of Kansas and University of Kansas Medical Center.  Rich was selected in 1990 to work in Paraguay through KU’s Partnership for the America’s professor exchange program.  He also did professional presentations and training related to autism with university faculties and graduate students in Taiwan, India, Thailand and many other countries.



Rich served as the editor and later a member of the editorial board for Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.   He also routinely reviewed articles for publication in other scientific journals including Intervention in School and Clinic, Behavioral Disorders, and Special Education/Teacher Education. 


In 1983, Rich was a founder of the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders, a conference and professional organization that focuses on training and research to support students with emotional and behavioral disorders.  MSLBD continues today to attract professionals from around the United States to Kansas City with an average conference attendance of well over 1000 participants yearly.  


Rich received numerous awards and recognitions during his career.  In 2002, he was the recipient of the International Council for Exceptional Children Research Award at the organization’s international meeting in New York City.   In 2012, he was elected to hold the Gene A. Budig Endowed Teaching Professorship of Special Education awarded to distinguished academics at the University of Kansas.   In 2014, Rich was named an “Icon in Education” by Ingrams Magazine, where his career and achievements were recognized in an issue dedicated to a select group of professionals at the top of their field.  


In his leisure, Rich was an avid life-long athlete.   He played football at Raytown High School and Baker University, ran track and graduated into half-marathons and triathlons in mid-life.  He continued running into his early 60’s and enjoyed long distance bicycling.   In recent years, golf became his preferred sport and he had several groups of great friends he golfed with regularly.


Rich and his wife Janice met at Baker University and married in 1970.  They enjoyed their family and numerous friends, an active social life and world-wide travel.   They also occasionally worked together authoring/editing books, book chapters, journal articles and doing joint professional presentations. 


Rich was preceded in death by his father, mother, sister and brother.   He leaves his wife of 47 years, Janice DePalma Simpson, and sister-in-law, Pamela DePalma, as well as extended family.   He also leaves two feline companions, Bogie and Mica.   Additionally he leaves countless great friends, colleagues and former students who added immeasurably to his full life.


A celebration of Rich’s life will be announced at a later date.  

Memorial gifts may be made in honor of Rich to:

Dr. Richard  L. Simpson Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund at Baker University, P.O. Box 65, Baldwin City, KS 66006. 


Bob and Kay Williams Nov 24 ,2017

Friend ,Overland Park ,Kansas

Such a tremendous loss for all who knew him. Our love and prayers to the family.

Janice Evans Nov 24 ,2017

Friend of Janice ,Safford ,Arizona

I am sadden by Rich’s passing. Holding in prayer Janice and kitties deeply impacted by their loss.

Bonnie Kay Nov 24 ,2017

friend ,Baldwin City ,Kansas

As I read all of the many accomplishments in Rich's lifetime, I am in awe. I knew Rich as a friend, through Janice. I found him to be the kindest man I have ever met. I will miss his welcoming smile and his wonderful personality.

Jerry Dehoney Nov 24 ,2017

friend, fraternity brother and former Raytown resident ,Flower Mound ,Texas

There is no doubt that Rich was the finest person I have ever known! He was a scholar, athlete, educator and mentor for countless people. I will forever miss his sense of humor and keen intellect and friendship.

Dennis and Marybeth Consalvi Nov 25 ,2017

Cousin ,Voorhees ,New Jersey

Janice,so sorry for your loss. He was a wonderful man and will be greatly missed.

Libby and John Buss Nov 25 ,2017

friend ,Kansas City ,Missouri

Janice - Words cannot express how sorry I am for your loss. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you cope with this devastating loss. Sincere condolences and continued prayers for you. Libby

Claire D'Angelo Nov 25 ,2017

Cousin ,Aston ,Pennsylvania

Janice, So sorry for your loss. Bill and Elaine also extend their condolences.

Valerie Vickers Nov 25 ,2017

What an amazing life! Rich is leaving a legacy that makes a global difference. Love to you, Janice, as his life partner! You both were/are leaders who inspire and continue to enrich our lives. My deep condolences!

Rebecca Baker Nov 25 ,2017

Student and friend ,Olathe ,Kansas

Rich was not only one of the brightest people I ever knew, he was also one of the kindest. He was a natural teacher, and I learned so much just being in his presence. You will be missed, but you leave the world a far better place for having been here.

Allie Lawrence Nov 25 ,2017

Former student ,Overland Park ,Kansas

My heartfelt sympathies and deepest condolences go out to Rich's family. He was my advisor in my doctoral program at KU until his retirement. He was a wonderful mentor and had a way to make the mountains of work or challenges that come with working on a PhD seem smaller and manageable. I will forever treasue our converaations about Michigan and life. He was an amazing man and mentor. Wishing you all peace in the warm memories you shared.

Christy Hansen Nov 25 ,2017

Autism Graduate Student 2010 at KU Edwards Campus ,Overland Park ,Kansas

I'm so sorry to learn of Rich's passing. It was always such a delight to be in his classes and listen to his life encountered stories! There was no doubt that he loved the individuals of whom he taught us about and cared deeply for his graduate students to be well equipped in our field working with them. He was a true "gem" in the study field of autism whom will be greatly missed. Christy Hansen

Vidya Munandar Nov 25 ,2017

Former Student ,Lawrence ,Kansas

My deepest condolence to the family. I was really fortunate to be able to learn from Richard while pursuing my master's degree at KU. Richard was such an inspiring teacher with great compassion and sense of humor.

Lee Stickle Nov 25 ,2017

Student/Mentee ,Shawnee ,Kansas

Dr. Simpson was a tremendous asset to the field of education. The impact that he had was exponential, his work, his guidance and his level-headed approach change the lives of those he touched. Thank you for your contributions, you made this world a better place.

Lisa Mann Nov 25 ,2017

Friend and former student ,Overland Park ,Kansas

Rich was such a brilliant man and a wonderful, generous person. He will be greatly missed.

Joan Houghton, EdD Nov 25 ,2017

Former graduate student ,Lawrence ,Kansas

Rich was an unforgettable professor, mentor, and researcher. He always solicited input from his students that required reflection and application pertinent for all students but especially in the areas of behavior disorders and autism. Rich also appreciated his students growth and inquiry by provinding feedback that was genuine and challenging. My prayers, thoughts, and spirit are extended to Rich and his family during these difficult times. He will be missed, but most of all remembered. The world is a better place because of Rich’s presence and thoughtfulness. He will be missed and remembered—always.

Rick Lindskog Nov 25 ,2017

Colleague ,Pittsburg ,Kansas

We are all diminished with by the passing of Rich Simpson. He was a remarkable man, both personally and professionally.

Christine Ream Nov 25 ,2017

Former student ,Olathe ,Kansas

Dr. Simpson was an inspiration to his students. He was an excellent leader and his knowledge on Autism was astounding. I learned so much from him and he was one of the reasons why I became an educator. He was a Professor that was dedicated to his students. He always had time to answer any questions you may have had. I will miss him, but comforted to know that his wisdom will never be forgotten. My sincere condolence to your family.

Susana Bernad Nov 26 ,2017

Former student ,Madrid

You live in us, your teachings and passion is in all of us, your former students. With it we are touching other’s people life’s. THANK YOU Rich. Susana

Mike and Kathy O’Bryhim Nov 26 ,2017

Friend ,Wichita ,Kansas

As Mike said, ‘he was my hero!’ And, I knew him more as a friend! Reading his accomplishments, I am more amazed and awed than ever! What a wonderful guy! Janice, I hope to come visit you this month to listen and share in your sorrow!! Your friends are with you, dear. Loyally, Kathy

Susan Carden Nov 26 ,2017

Student and advisee ,Lawrence ,Kansas

Dr.Simpson was my advisor in the early/ mid ‘70’s. He is probably a big part of the reason I’ve stayed in Special Education for the past 39 years. He was a mentor and pioneer in the field. He had insight and vision, and is leaving this world a much better place because of that. My heart goes out to his wife and family. Such a huge loss for our field as well as his family and friends. He has left a great legacy, and will live on in so many lives he touched.

Joyce Evans Nov 26 ,2017

Friend of Janice ,Safford ,Arizona

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Rich. Although I never knew him, he must be very special to marry Janice DePalma Simpson.

Sandy Smith Nov 26 ,2017

Former Student ,Overland Park ,Kansas

My thoughts and prayers go to Rich's family and friends. He was my adviser in the 70s and largely responsible for my career path. I am proud to be a part of his legacy.His impact in the field of Special Education has been huge and his kindness and expertise will be sorely missed.

Scott and Dawn Hillman Nov 27 ,2017

Brother and Sister-In-Law of Marcia and Jack Bowerman ,Bowie ,Maryland

We are so very sorry for the loss of your husband. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

Steve Moore Nov 28 ,2017

Friend and former student ,Shawnee ,Kansas

Janice, I am so sorry for your loss. Rich was an exceptional individual. There are not many people that I consider to have had a significant impact on my life, but Rich was one of them.

Stephanie Ferney Nov 28 ,2017

Former Student ,Kansas City ,Missouri

I was so sad to hear about Rich. I had the privilege of participating in one of the demonstration classrooms he worked with at KUMC in the mid-90s, and always enjoyed catching up with him when I ran into him at conferences over the years as well as hearing him speak and continuing to learn from him. I’m so sorry for your loss.

Mark and Asia Bowerman Dec 02 ,2017

Son and daughter in law of Jack & Marcia Bowerman ,Katy ,Texas

Janice, We are truly sorry for your loss. We are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers. Mark & Asia

Debbie Shapiro May 31 ,2018

Former student ,Overland Park ,Kansas

I just learned of Rich’s passing. He was a wonderful teacher and mentor. He will be greatly missed.