Dorothy “Dottie” Simpson, long-time Washington Rowing supporter and fan, and a strong advocate for education and women’s rights, died February 12, 2018 at the age of 93.
Dottie was an adventurer and enjoyed everything life had to offer. Growing up in the south, she was active in a myriad of sports from a young age and had a fascination with flying, so much so that in her early 20’s she had a pilot’s license. Her goal was to fly in WWII, cut short only because the war ended, so she turned her focus to academics, graduating from Duke University as a math major and Class President.
She married Hunter Simpson in 1951, and the two of them settled with their family on Mercer Island in the early 60’s. Hunter (who rowed at Washington and was a member of the VBC in the late 40’s), was a consistent presence at the boathouse throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, both as a Rowing Steward and member of the UW Board of Regents. Dottie was drawn to the sport through Hunter and as a Husky (she earned an MBA from Foster in 1982), and became a staunch and generous supporter of the rowing team at Washington for decades, and particularly the women’s team.
“Dottie was a huge fan of Washington athletics and especially the rowing team,” said Erin O’Connell ‘96, a close friend of the Simpson family and now Senior Associate Athletic Director at the UW. “She highly valued the opportunity for women to compete – and to compete at a high level. She saw our women’s rowing team as providing exactly that… and she and Hunter were consistently there to support it.”
In 2003, the trophy for the winner of the women’s Varsity Eight event at the annual Cal Dual was named the Simpson Cup in honor of Hunter and Dottie. The family connection is made that much more complete by the fact that their daughter, Anne, rowed at Cal.
An outspoken advocate for Title IX, Dottie believed all opportunities should be open to women, and she lived her life that way. “She was a powerhouse of a person, “continued O’Connell, “and did not believe in the word ‘no’. For her, there was always a way to achieve the goal… it was just a matter of finding it. She backed down from nothing. That was just who she was.”
Not a surprise for describing Dottie, who said this about earning her pilot’s license in 1945: “In order to get a license then, you had to spin the airplane three revolutions in a downwards spiral and pull it back out.”
An adventurer, a philanthropist, a competitor, an advocate for women… and a true friend to Washington Rowing. That was Dottie Simpson. Her memory and her legacy will be forever remembered by the Washington Rowing community.