Karen Simpson, a former SigEp Headquarters staff member who worked for the Fraternity for 38 years, passed away on April 24, 2020. She worked at Headquarters from 1973 until 2011.
Karen served as administrative coordinator, but her way with words led many staff members to seek her counsel. Her ability to take a first draft of a message someone else had written and revise it into a polished version is remembered by current and former staffers to this day.
“Fundamentally, Karen taught 100 percent of the staff how to write a business letter,” said Ken Maddox, Oregon State ‘75, who served as the Fraternity’s executive director. “She was an editor, spell checker and the walking Strunk & White writing guide for Sigma Phi Epsilon. Proper and personal were fundamentals of her teaching. She was fast and a delightful coworker.”
A good-natured person who loved to make others laugh, Karen’s kindness and professionalism will be missed at Headquarters and by SigEps around the country.
“Karen was patient with a bunch of kids who didn’t know what they were doing: understanding when it came to last-minute changes, rewrites and ideas,” said Eric Lauderbach, California-Santa Barbara ’89, who served as a regional director. “She always had such a great sense of humor and a smile.”
Karen was predeceased by her husband, Gary, and her parents. She leaves behind daughters Amanda and Shannon, four grandchildren, a sister and many other family and friends who will continue to cherish her memory.
Here are a few words from some of the many brothers who knew and loved Karen Simpson:
“Karen was an excellent teacher and guide when I was a freshly minted college graduate and newly hired regional director, and then provided valuable support and counsel when I stayed on in various Headquarters staff positions. Karen was kind and gentle when I needed course correction and uplifting when I needed a pick-me-up.” —Tim Biddle, Colorado State ’73
“Eventually, you learned that when you went to your next job there was not going to be a ‘Karen.’ She made us all better writers, and when you returned to Headquarters, she was the first person you’d go to see and thank her.” — Doug Nabhan, Purdue ’77
“She taught me how to write a business letter (she basically taught me how to write altogether!). To this day, when I’m writing a letter — usually an email letter — I think of her. Her professionalism and attention to detail helped set SigEp apart. And of course, she had a great smile and I loved her accent. She will be missed!” — Joe Langella, Connecticut ’83
“Karen taught me more about writing than many of my English teachers. Her red pen often dominated my first drafts, but her suggestions were always focused on the best interest of the person receiving the letter. To many, her letters were as close as a brother might get to Zollinger House, and she took that responsibility to heart. Her dry humor, kind demeanor, attention to detail and work ethic will be missed.” — Jacques Vauclain, Davidson ’90