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Memorial to Pam Simpson Unveiled in Lexington

On Friday, July 6, members of the Washington and Lee, Lexington and Rockbridge County communities gathered at Hopkins Green in downtown Lexington at the behest of the Historic Lexington Foundation (HLF) to unveil a memorial to the late Pam Simpson.

Pam, the first female tenure-track professor at W&L and the first female professor to receive an endowed chair, died last October at the age of 65. She became the inaugural Ernest Williams II Professor of Art History in 1993. The art historian was one of the most influential figures of the past four decades at W&L and had an equally tremendous influence on the community. In announcing the event, the HLF said she “was one of those truly exceptional people.” W&L could not agree more.

The emcee for the brief ceremony was Don Hasfurther, director of the Historic Lexington Foundation. Representatives of other organizations who benefited from Pam’s guidance and hard work were on hand as well — the Rockbridge Historical Society, the local chapter of Preservation Virginia and Project Horizon.

Pam’s son, Peter Simpson, drew the design and dug and poured the concrete foundation for the memorial. John Mason carved the sculpture out of granite from Stony Creek, Ct., and set it on a base  of soapstone from Schuyler, Va., in nearby Nelson County. Mason, who has been a visiting professor at W&L, lives next door to the home of Pam and Henry Simpson. He told the crowd that he’d started carving in mid-winter and could see the Simpson house as he shaped the stone into an obelisk. “The experience for me was very, very moving,” he said.

The plaque on the memorial reads: “Pamela Hemenway Simpson, 1946–2011/An Extraordinary Teacher/Dedicated to the Preservation of Historic Lexington and Rockbridge County/A Champion for the Welfare, Protection and Progress of Those in Need/Devoted to Her Community and Family.”

Pam’s grandchildren, Helen and Henry, helped to unveil the memorial, which looks a lot like their grandmother: graceful, substantial and timeless.

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