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Date: March 04, 2005

Master Engineer Helped Build Victoria, Leaves Legacy to Victoria

The University of Victoria’s faculty of engineering has received a $200,000 gift from the estate of the master engineer who built some of Victoria’s most familiar buildings. Ray Simpson, whose work includes Government House, the Victoria Law Courts and the Douglas Building, passed away in August 2004. The gift from his estate will establish the Ray and Naomi Simpson Scholarship Award for undergraduate electrical and mechanical engineering students at UVic.

“The faculty of engineering is in the midst of a major expansion,” says Dr. Michael Miller, dean of engineering. “This generous gift will recognize the achievements and potential of some of our excellent students and will further increase our capacity to recruit the most promising students.”

The endowment will award a $3,000 scholarship to a top ranked second year engineering student, renewable in subsequent years if the recipient maintain a high grade point average.

“Ray Simpson, as one of the builders of this city, had very high standards both professionally, and in life,” says Miller. “The idea of a renewable scholarship that would challenge students to strive to be their very best affirms the values and ideals of an extraordinarily talented man who made an invaluable contribution to our community.”

John Raymond Simpson was born in Edmonton in 1916 to English immigrant parents. In 1923 his family moved to California where, in his youth, he excelled in music and tennis, becoming the youngest member of the 1931 U.S. Davis Cup tennis team. After the family returned to Victoria, Simpson graduated from Vic High. A gifted musician, he played cello and clarinet in the orchestra aboard the Trans-Pacific Liner Empress of Japan. He later enrolled at the University of Leeds on scholarship, graduating with a degree in civil engineering in 1939. During a short stay in a British hospital, he fell in love with one of his nurses, Naomi Seddon, and they married in 1939.

When war broke out, Simpson was commissioned to build subterranean ammunition bunkers and later, in British Guyana, to construct marine defences against a suspected invasion of South America. After the war, Simpson returned to Victoria with his young family, and went to work with the provincial government. He rose to the position of senior structural engineer and built some of Victoria’s best known structures.

Although he was offered the position of deputy minister of public works on a number of occasions, Simpson declined in favour of remaining a practising engineer. He was also a master craftsman, whose exquisite period furniture and lamps grace many Victoria homes.
Media contacts:
Norma Cameron (Manager of Planned Giving) at (250) 721-8967 or ncameron@uvic.ca
Chris Thackray (Development Communications) at o. (250) 721-6247/h. (250) 380-2092 or cthackray@uvic.ca

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

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