At the south entrance to the Pedestrian Plaza, large walls etched with “The Honor Roll of the Names That Live at Simpson” recognize our most distinguished alumni, faculty and benefactors. This permanent fixture will forever honor these individuals for their contributions to Simpson College.
Names from each category are added to the Honor Roll every five years. Based on specific criteria, alumni submit nominations for this recognition and a presidentially appointed committee reviews these nominees and selects the finalists who are then placed on the ballot.
Below, please find the condensed biographies of the alumni and faculty that appear on the ballot for the 2020 class of “The Honor Roll of the Names That live at Simpson.” Alumni from the class of 2010 and earlier may vote for up to two distinguished alumni and one distinguished faculty nominee.
2020 Distinguished Alumni Candidates
Those alumni who have achieved truly outstanding status by virtue of one or more of the following criteria.
- Civil Service;
- Scholarly, professional, or scientific achievement;
- Religious service achieved through election to high office at the national or international level or unusual achievement in fields of religious service;
- Service to the nation or the world in lifelong commitment to such causes as that of racial justice, world peace or other human endeavors;
- Any additional achievement or service that exemplifies the highest expectations of the Simpson ideal.
Hal Bryan ’57
Dr. Albert ‘Hal’ Bryan served in the United States Army from 1951-1953 and received his bachelor of arts in mathematics from Simpson College in 1957. During his time at Simpson, he participated in Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, student senate, and the college activities board.
Dr. Bryan earned his Master of Science in mathematics from Michigan State University in 1958 and his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Iowa in 1964. Dr. Bryan worked as a successful ophthalmologist in Yakima, Washington. For over 15 years, Dr. Bryan spent a month in Africa, the Philippines, or Haiti or on a Mercy Ship providing free eye care to those in need. The care they provided was mainly cataract and glaucoma surgeries and have assisted over 2000 patients in six different countries pro bono. Additionally, Dr. Bryan donated supplies and eyeglasses during each of his mission trips.
Dr. Bryan was awarded the Simpson College Alumni Humanitarian Award in 2007.
Thomas Croat ’62
Dr. Thomas Croat earned his bachelor of arts from Simpson College in biology in 1962. While at Simpson, Dr. Croat was a member of the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society and S.I.S.E.A. He later earned his master of arts (1966) and his Ph.D. (1967) from the University of Kansas.
Dr. Croat has dedicated his professional life to tropical plants, specifically Araceae. He is known as the world’s leading expert on Araceae, a very large and diverse family of plants. Dr. Croat is the P.A. Schulze Curator of Botany at the Missouri Botanical Garden as well as an honorary adjunct professor of biology at Washington University, St. Louis University and the University of Missouri – St. Louis.
Dr. Croat spends the majority of his time discovering new species of plants and introducing them to the scientific world. He has personally collected more than 106,000 plant specimens in rain forests in Central and South America, Asia and Africa and maintains a living Araceae collection of over 10,000 plants. He has over 100 publications on Araceae and has received the H.W. Schott Award for Excellence in Research of Araceae, the David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration, the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 4th Congress of Botanics in Columbia and the Simpson College Alumni Achievement Award.
Nile Ramsbottom ’66
Nile Ramsbottom earned his bachelor of arts in business administration and economics in 1966 and was named the 1966 Wall Street Journal Outstanding Senior in Management.
Ramsbottom became the youngest vice president at Purina Mills at the age of 38. Ramsbottom worked at Purina Mills until 1999. In 2000, he and two others founded Renewable Energy Group in Ames, Iowa. They invented the first commercial biodiesel process in the United States that employed a continuous flow system that not only improved quality, but also productivity. Renewable Energy Group is now the largest bio refiner in the United States and has been publicly traded on NASDAQ (REGI) since 2013. The company has 13 refineries and has annual sales of over $2 billion. Ramsbottom received the Simpson College Alumni Achievement Award in 2010 for his success in the biodiesel industry.
Ramsbottom received the Light Bringer Award (St. Louis) in 2012 and the Simpson College Alumni Humanitarian Award in 2019 because of his commitment to helping veterans. He and his wife, Terry, co-founded God Cares, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, in 2008. God Cares assists veterans in need find temporary shelter, food, clothing, mentoring and employer contacts so they can best present themselves to prospective employers. Self-sufficiency is the goal of God Cares and Ramsbottom has assisted over 1,800 veterans through the program.
Additionally, Ramsbottom founded Nile Ramsbottom Consulting/Group Presentations in 2016 after authoring and publishing “Prepare For Leadership: From Farm Boy to Times Square” in 2015.
Ramsbottom has served on the Simpson College Board of Trustees for 20 years and has been Chair of the Enrollment Committee during his tenure.
Keith Swanson ’54
Dr. Keith Swanson fell 45 feet from a grain elevator when he was a young boy, paralyzing him from the waist down. Through determined effort he regained use of one leg and learned to walk. His experiences after his injury gave him the desire to become a doctor and help others.
He graduated from Simpson College in 1954 with his bachelor of arts in mathematics and chemistry. He later earned his doctor of medicine in 1958 from the University of Iowa. While at Simpson, Dr. Swanson was inducted into Epsilon Sigma Honor Society and was a member of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society and student senate. Dr. Swanson practiced medicine in Atlantic, Iowa for 30 years prior to “retiring” and opening a “donation only clinic.” His donation only clinic saw approximately 100 patients per week from 1997 to 2019, when he fully retired from practicing medicine.vDuring this time, Dr. Swanson did not charge anything for his services. Instead, he left a red box by the door for free-will donations.
Dr. Swanson served as Mayor of Atlantic from 1973-1977 and has also served as City Manager. He was a board member for West Central Development Corporations, (now West Central Community Action) and served two terms on the Atlantic School Board. He was also active with the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce and Masonic Lodge.
Dr. Swanson served as a member of the Simpson College Board of Trustees from 1984 to 2006 and was given Honorary Life Trustee status. He has also served on the Simpson College Alumni Association Board of Directors and was the National Chair for the Simpson Fund from 1998-2000. For his service to the College, Dr. Swanson was named the 1988 Alumni Loyalty Award recipient.
2020 Distinguished Faculty Candidates
Particular emphasis should be given to faculty who not only served for an extended period of time, but in the process, distinguished themselves by extraordinary instructional ability, sensitive attention to the needs and development of students, lasting impacts left through their service and ingenuity, and whose efforts are reflected in the post-graduation success of their students.
Dr. Betsworth earned his bachelor of science from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1955, his master of divinity from Drew University in 1962 and his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1973.
He taught in the religion department at Simpson College from 1973 to 1998 and also served as chaplain. He was instrumental in building a meaningful and active religious life program at Simpson. Dr. Betsworth also served as Dean of Students for one year in 1974.
Dr. Betsworth earned the rank of Professor Emeritus in 1998. During his tenure, he was inducted into Epsilon Sigma Honor Society and received the Distinguished Research Award in 1990, the Faculty Award for Campus Leadership in 1993 and the Distinguished Teacher Award in 1994.
Dr. Betsworth published two books, was very involved with the Indianola United Methodist Church, traveled frequently and enjoyed tandem cycling with his wife, Joan.
Glenn Buhr attended the Iowa State Teachers College, graduating in 1952. Upon completion of his degree, he served with the Army Counterintelligence Corp, stationed in Berlin at the height of the Cold War, until 1955. He would later earn his master of arts in German from Middlebury College in 1966.
‘Herr’ Buhr began teaching at Simpson College in 1961, serving the institution as an associate professor of German until 1997. He was inducted into Epsilon Sigma in 1967 and earned Professor Emeritus status upon his retirement.
From 1979-1981, Buhr served as Director of the Iowa European Office for the State of Iowa. Based in Frankfurt, Germany, he worked with business and trade representatives to build relationships between Iowa and European interests.
In 1985, Buhr created the Schorndorf Semester Abroad program which still exists in some form today. Of Buhr’s development of the program, Dr. Joseph Walt wrote in Beneath the Whispering Maples, “It is doubtful that any faculty member in the history of the College ever contributed more than did Buhr to the development of a program in international studies. An early advocate for language study – under Simpson auspices – abroad, Buhr put together a semester program at Schorndorf in Baden-Wurttemberg that later became a respected model for language study overseas.”
In 1995, Buhr earned Schorndorf’s most prestigious honor, receiving the Daimler Medal which honors recipients who have realized outstanding achievement. Buhr was active in the Cottage Grove Presbyterian Church, Kiwanis, and American Legion.
Dr. Bruce Haddox earned his bachelor of arts in 1961 from Stetson University. He later received his bachelor of divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1965 and his master of arts in 1966 from Florida State University. He earned his Ph.D. in religion in 1969 from Duke University.
Dr. Haddox’s tenure at Simpson spanned from 1969 to 2006. Hired to teach in the philosophy and religion department, Haddox became best known for teaching religion after the department was divided. Dr. Haddox became academic dean in 1994, serving in that role until his retirement in 2006. During his time as Academic Dean, Dr. Haddox served as interim president of Simpson College from 1998 to 1999. He earned Professor Emeritus status upon his retirement from the College.
While at Simpson, Haddox was inducted into Epsilon Sigma in 1982 and earned the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1994. He was also the recipient of the Dick Buxton Award in 2001, honoring his loyalty to the Simpson College Athletics Program.
Everett Laning ’53
Dr. Everett Laning earned his bachelor of arts in sociology in 1953 from Simpson College. While a Simpson student, Laning participated in band, Blackfriars Theatre and Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society. He continued his education at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, earning his bachelor of divinity in 1957. In 1959 Laning received his master of arts from Northwestern University and in 1965 he earned his Ph.D. from Iowa State University.
Dr. Laning taught in the sociology department at Simpson from 1964 to 1996 and now holds the status of Professor Emeritus. He was inducted into Epsilon Sigma in 1967 and received the Faculty Award for Campus Leadership in 1989 and the Simpson College Alumni Humanitarian Award in 2003. He was recently honored with the Simpson College Alumni Loyalty Award in 2019.
Dr. Laning has been active in numerous causes including Rotary International (district governor 1991-1992), Iowa Community Action, Warrant County Habitat for Humanity (past executive director), former board of trustee member at Kendall College, Iowa Sociological Association (past treasurer and secretary) and Iowa Criminal Justice Educators (past treasurer).
Today, Dr. Laning is instrumental in building the relationship between residents of The Village and Simpson College.
Robert Larsen ’56
Dr. Robert Larsen earned his bachelor of music with emphasis on piano from Simpson College in 1956. He completed his master of music in piano performance at the University of Michigan in 1958 and his doctor of music in opera and conducting in 1971 from Indiana University.
Dr. Larsen joined the Simpson College Music Department in 1957 and taught until 2010, when he earned Professor Emeritus status upon his retirement. He chaired the Music Department for 33 years during his 53-year tenure and is best known for building the Opera program at Simpson and making it internationally known.
Additionally, Dr. Larsen founded the Des Moines Metro Opera in 1973. He served 38 years with DMMO and all performances still occur at Simpson College to this day.
Dr. Larsen has been recognized for his achievements with the Simpson College Alumni Achievement Award in 1983, the Faculty Award for Distinguished Research in 1988 and the Alumni Humanitarian Award in 2012. He has been honored by the Iowa Arts Council with the Iowa Arts Award in 1999, received the first-ever Governor’s Award in Music in 1999, was honored at the Pella Opera House for putting Iowa on the world’s opera map in 1999, and was a DSM Sages Over 70 Honoree in 2013. Among his biggest honors, he received the Orpheus Award from Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia for “significant and lasting contributions to the cause of music in America” in 2006 and he received the National Opera Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.
Dr. Larsen edited the Opera Aria Anthology in seen volumes for G. Schirmer and produced recordings of piano accompaniments of Mozart area and Joseph Marx songs.
Well-known Simpson College President Robert McBride spoke of Dr. Larsen as “Music Simpson’s Spire of Excellence and probably the most valuable and indispensable member of our entire staff in terms of public relations including the president himself.”
In Beneath the Whispering Maples, Dr. Joseph Walt wrote, “No one at Simpson worked harder than Larsen; no one produced work of higher quality; no one was more gifted professionally. The sheer quantity of the work he accomplished, the powerful impact of his personality on the College, the impressive performances he coaxed out of talented students, led both insiders and outsiders to regard Larsen as an irreplaceable treasure.”