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Graduate Education at the Highest Level

Laurel SimpsonDuring the economic ravages of the Great Depression, Laurel Simpson's family managed to support his music education. After surviving 35 flying missions as a B-17 pilot during World War II, his first order of business after his tour of duty was to resume his undergraduate studies. And when the outbreak of the Korean War nearly left him stranded in Europe, he made sure he could return to the United States in time to start his first teaching job.

Education has always been paramount for Laurel Simpson. The School of Educational Studies alumnus (MA, Education, 1950) was an educator for nearly a quarter-century; teaching music to elementary and high school students for 15 years and serving as a district administrator for nine years.

"To me, education has always been exciting, and I've always enjoyed it," Mr. Simpson said. "And if a student is interested in something and gets joy out of it, what more can you ask for?"

Since his retirement in 1972, he has supported Claremont Graduate University through charitable gift-giving. Mr. Simpson's commitment to education has been steadfast—even during times of hardship.

In 1929, at a time when soup kitchens were the norm and unemployment was rampant, Mr. Simpson's parents found a way to cover the costs of their son's trombone lessons: paying them with groceries from the family business. "That was a sacrifice for them to do that," he recalled.

After completing his European tour of duty, Mr. Simpson—who was an undergraduate at the time he was asked to serve—was offered a post as a flight instructor. "I said, 'No, thank you. I need to go back to school and finish my education.'"

In 1950, Mr. Simpson and his wife were enrolled in a music school at the Palace of Fontainebleau, a picturesque French château located south of Paris that became a national museum, when they were left "high and dry" after all flights were diverted in the wake of North Korea's invasion of South Korea. They managed to secure passage on a ship, and—after weathering a storm, a slow ocean crossing, and bureaucratic delays—made it back home.

"We got back to school the day my teaching contract began," he recalled. "We had no choice."

Currently a member of the Blaisdell Society, Mr. Simpson has included CGU in his estate to ensure his legacy will continue to have an impact on students' lives and experiences. His generosity will help provide our students with the tools and resources they will need to finish their educational journeys and meet the needs of a changing world.

"Claremont Graduate University represents education at a high level, which is something we all can appreciate," Mr. Simpson said. "If you're a CGU graduate, then I think you have some obligation to try to help in whatever way you can."