SJSU Remembers Professor Sally Veregge: “A Loved and Respected Teacher”

SJSU Remembers Professor Sally Veregge: “A Loved and Respected Teacher”

Professor Sally Veregge

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

SJSU lost an outstanding teacher and true believer in mentoring all students, especially young women scientists, when Professor of Biology Sally Ann Veregge lost her battle against cancer Sept. 22. She was 66.

Services will be held 10 a.m. Sept. 26, at the Wesley United Methodist Church, 566 N. Fifth St, San Jose. In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations to the First United Methodist Church of San Jose or the Department of Biological Sciences at San Jose State.

Donate online or send checks to the Tower Foundation of San Jose State University, One Washington Square, San Jose, CA, 95192-0183. Please note the purpose of the gift: “Department of Biological Sciences, in memory of Professor Veregge.”

Many Contributions

An obituary published by the San Jose Mercury News notes Professor Veregge’s many contributions to the university community:

“Sally thoroughly immersed herself in education and the integration of education within the world … She brought her strong educational background and eclectic working background to the Department of Biological Sciences … in 1984, where she taught a wide variety of courses rose to the rank of professor and chair …

“Quietly innovative as a professor, Sally collaborated with others to create interdisciplinary curricula such as one of the first Professional Science Masters in the country, a master’s in biotechnology, providing students strong internship opportunities in the valley, and working closely with the hospitals and clinics in the area to build and support a Clinical Laboratory Science program.

“Sally was a loved and respected teacher. She treated every student as if he or she was her only student. She spread the ability to learn and the love of learning to thousands of students. She engaged students in her research laboratory as well. Students from high school, undergraduate and graduate students worked collaboratively to tackle the impact of gonadal steroids on the brain including estrogen’s impact on epilepsy.

Encouraging Girls to Study Science

“Sally was also a longstanding organizer and contributor to Expanding Your Horizons which served over 800 young girls every year to encourage them to pursue studies and work in science and engineering. She was a ‘Teacher-Scholar’ at SJSU and was named 2002 ‘Woman of Achievement’ award at the 28th Annual Women’s Fund of Silicon Valley among many academic honors …

“Sally always saw the positives in people and situations. Beyond words, this was often expressed by her trademark smile that she used frequently. We will keep Sally in our hearts and minds by remembering how she enjoyed life and respected and helped others; how she was always strong in spirit and conviction, lived life to the fullest, and cherished her family and friends.”

San Jose State Remembers Leigh Weimers: "Ever Generous in the Cause of SJSU"

San Jose State Remembers Leigh Weimers: "Ever Generous in the Cause of SJSU"

SJSU Remembers Leigh Weimers: "Ever Generous in the Cause of SJSU"

Leigh Weimers in the Spartan Daily newsroom in 1958 (SJSU yearbook photo).

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

Services for Leigh Weimers, ’58 Journalism, will be held 3:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at St. Joseph Cathedral Basilica in downtown San Jose.

“For four decades, his daily column captured the comings and goings of the valley and laid the foundation for a cultural renaissance in San Jose that took place as the region left behind fruit orchards for its silicon future,” wrote his successor Sal Pizarro, also an alumnus.

The former Spartan Daily reporter and editor who went on to a 47-year career with the Mercury News died Aug. 30 at 76, just a few days after blogging that he was about to undergo heart surgery.

San Jose State extends condolences to Weimers friends and family, including his wife Geri, ’63 Business. The Weimers were lifelong supporters of SJSU, which Leigh positioned in his columns as one of many institutions integral to the region’s transformation into an international powerhouse.

“I’m convinced that when historians come to write about what has happened here over the past four decades, they’ll compare Silicon Valley to Florence at the start of the Renaissance,” he wrote in his final column for the Mercury News.

“After all, what took place in Italy back then was the development of new ways of looking at art, music, commerce, the world. And the technological developments here during the past 40 years have been no less global.”

San Jose State Remembers Leigh Weimers: "Ever Generous in the Cause of SJSU"

Weimers in the San Jose Mercury News newsroom in 2003 (Sharon Hall photo).

“One of the Best Times of My Life”

Weimers attended thousands of events while serving as the Mercury News man about town, but he described the Tower Award dinner gala in 2003, when he was the guest of honor, as “one of the best times of my life.” The award is SJSU’s highest honor for service.

“Ever generous in the cause of SJSU, Leigh regularly highlights in his column the accomplishments of university faculty and staff. He helps keep us in the news as a metropolitan institution and as an educational force in the Bay Area,” President Robert L. Caret said at the event.

Caret also traced Weimer’s accomplishments: He started his professional career in journalism as a high school student, working for his hometown newspaper, the Napa Journal. While still a student at Napa Community College, he became the youngest sports editor of a daily in the state.

As a junior transfer to San Jose State’s journalism program, Weimers joined the staff of the Spartan Daily and in his column, “The Circular File,” further refined the incisive, witty style for which he is known.

Fresh out of college, Weimers was hired by the Mercury News, his one and only employer (save a two-year stint in the Army). He has also served on the SJSU Alumni Association Board of Directors and on the university’s publications editorial board, helping to transform our alumni magazine, Washington Square, into the publication it is today.

San Jose State Remembers Leigh Weimers: "Ever Generous in the Cause of SJSU"

The Leigh Weimers Journalism Scholarship Fund, established about 10 years ago, continues to support journalism students.

The Leigh Weimers Journalism Scholarship Fund

But it was the Tower Award master of ceremonies, Steve Snell, ’62 Business, who really made the case for Weimers, and for journalism.

“Just think, when Leigh started writing for the Mercury News, San Jose’s population was about 100,000 people,” Snell said. “It’s now almost a million, and through it all he’s been our greatest booster and supporter.

“He is in many ways responsible for giving us a positive image of ourselves.  His column has promoted what’s good about San Jose.  And sometimes when he’s pointed out what could be improved, he’s always done it in a positive way.

“He has helped innumerable civic and arts organizations through his mentions and stories.  A mention in Leigh’s column can be the difference between a successful event and one not so successful.  And Leigh and his paper have been major supporters of San Jose State University and the Alumni Association.”

The Leigh Weimers Journalism Scholarship Fund, established about 10 years ago, continues to support journalism students. Please consider giving. You can do so online (, click “give now,” and then click Leigh Weimers Journalism Scholarship Fund).

Or please send checks to the Tower Foundation of San Jose State University, One Washington Square, San Jose, CA, 95192-0183. In the memo section of the check, please write “Leigh Weimers Journalism Scholarship Fund.”

CASA Dean Charles Bullock with Phyllis Simpkins at an International House pancake breakfast.

SJSU Remembers Phyllis Simpkins: “She was There Every Step of the Way”

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.