Howard Simpson, known for his engineering expertise in structural mechanics, died Jan. 23 at age 97. He was the last surviving founder of multidisciplinary consulting engineer Simpson Gumpertz & Heger.

Simpson developed a specialty in structural mechanics applied to precision structures, such as radar systems, antennas, and radio and optical telescopes. He also developed computer models for significant structures.

Among his notable projects are NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, the Multiple Mirror Telescope at the Whipple Observatory and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Haystack radar antenna.

In 1956, Simpson, Werner Gumpertz and Frank Heger, created SGH. Gumpertz died in 2018 and Heger in 2003.

SGH, which has grown to 600 people, designs, investigates and rehabilitates in three main areas--structural engineering, building enclosure engineering, and engineering mechanics and infrastructure. SGH has projects in the U.S., Canada and more than 30 other nations.

Brilliant Engineer

Known as a brilliant engineer, he was also the "guy with the keen business and finance mind," who even understood the law, says Glenn R. Bell, SGH's former CEO, who retired last month as a senior principal. 

Bell, who started working full time at SGH in 1975, calls Simpson--his mentor--a man of high values and intellectual honesty. "He integrated his engineering work into a coherent business and value proposition for SGH," says Bell, currently the volunteer co-director of CROSS-US, a confidential reporting system for building and bridge failures in the U.S.

Simpson still made time for many professional activities. He was the 1983 president of the Applied Technology Council, which advances R&D in earthquake and structural engineering.

"I was really impressed with [Howard's] leadership qualities, his kindness" and his respect for others, says Chris Rojahn, ATC's executive director from December 1981 until May 2015.

During those years, Rojahn, currently ATC's director emeritus, served under 34 ATC presidents. He calls Simpson "one of the outstanding ones," for his inspiration and encouragement.

Having earned his bachelor's of civil engineering at Cornell University, Simpson served in the U.S. Navy. He then earned graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including a doctorate in civil engineering.

Simpson was the firm's first president from 1983-95 and headed the engineering mechanics division until 1989. Active until three years ago, Simpson's formal last day of employment at SGH was in mid-December.