SJSU Remembers Phyllis Simpkins

Phyllis Simpkins

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

San Jose State University extends its condolences to the family and friends of Phyllis Simpkins,’46 Home Economics and Marketing, who died July 7 at 87. Phyllis and her late husband Alan Simpkins, ‘48 Physics, were lifelong supporters and donors to SJSU. Their son Bob Simpkins and many extended family members are also San Jose State alumni. View a photo gallery of the Simpkins’ through the years.

In 2003, while reflecting on their philanthropy, Phyllis Simpkins told Washington Square, the SJSU alumni magazine, “Alan and I received very good educations at San Jose State. I could try to be very philosophical about ‘giving back,’ but it’s not that complicated — we knew there were financial needs on the campus, and we knew we wanted to help.”

Phyllis and Alan Simpkins gave in excess of $10.8 million for the following:

  • Phyllis Forward Simpkins International Center (the SJSU International House)
  • Alan B. Simpkins Intercollegiate Athletics Administration Building
  • Simpkins Stadium Center
  • SJSU Marching Band
  • Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
  • Department of Nutrition and Food Science
  • Department of Kinesiology
  • School of Music and Dance

“Phyllis and Alan Simpkins understood that everyone should receive the very best opportunities San Jose State could provide, whether it was on the playing field, in the classroom or in their interactions with other students from across the country and around the world,” said President Mohammad Qayoumi. “As recently as this spring, when we joined the Mountain West, Phyllis was a steady presence at many campus events. Her leadership inspired countless others to support SJSU.

“Hundreds, maybe thousands, of students have benefitted from the generosity of Phyllis and Alan Simpkins. Their support of our athletics, band, marine science, nutrition, kinesiology, music and dance, and international programs have touched the lives not only of those who study and work here, but everyone who our alumni have gone on to work with throughout their lives.”

As important as the high-profile gifts were the more modest ones. The Simpkins’ almost single-handedly saved the SJSU Marching Band after its several years of absence in the 1970s. They were among the founders of the SJSU Alumni Association Santa Cruz Chapter. In addition to football and athletics in general, Phyllis and Alan Simpkins generosity extended to the softball, tennis, cross country and water polo teams.

“Phyllis Simpkins clearly saw and understood the value of an NCAA Division I-A intercollegiate athletics program to San Jose State University,” said Senior Associate Athletic Director John Poch. “When the program needed to take the next step, she was there every step of the way with our student-athletes, coaches, staff and administrators. Her devotion to the Spartans was unparalleled. Her leadership inspired many to help make San Jose State athletics what it is today — a comprehensive sports program that thrives in competition and in the classroom and gives tomorrow’s leaders a solid foundation for future success.”

San Jose State and the California State University have honored Phyllis and Alan Simpkins many times over the years. In 1979, Phyllis Simpkins received the Tower Award, SJSU’s highest honor for philanthropy and service. Phyllis and Alan Simpkins were named CSU Philanthropists of the Year in 1989. Both Phyllis and Alan Simpkins also received honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters at the SJSU commencement in 1996.

Services will be held 2 p.m. July 19 at the Los Altos United Methodist Church, followed immediately by a reception on the church grounds.  The family is requesting that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the SJSU International House or the SJSU Marching Band. Gifts may be made online ( or by sending a check to the SJSU Tower Foundation, One Washington Square, San Jose, CA 95192 -0256.