John Barclay Simpson was appointed the 14th President of the University at Buffalo on January 1, 2004, bringing with him more than 30 years of experience in higher education. An accomplished research scientist specializing in neuroendocrinology, physiology, and behavior, he is appointed to the faculty of UB’s Department of Physiology and Biophysics.
Prior to his appointment as UB President, Dr. Simpson held the post of Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he served from 1998-2003. As that institution’s chief academic and budgetary officer, Dr. Simpson led the UC Santa Cruz community through a period of substantial growth and development, employing a campus-wide, long-term planning process that has served as a referential basis for the strategic planning initiative he is currently implementing at UB. Under his leadership, the campus population grew from fewer than 11,000 students to nearly 15,000 students. Dr. Simpson guided the campus through significant curricular developments as well, overseeing the creation of new graduate programs in digital arts and new media, bioinformatics, electrical engineering, and politics, as well as other innovative interdisciplinary degree programs.
President Simpson’s previous appointment was for 23 years on the faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle. He was appointed as assistant professor in 1975, associate professor in 1978, and professor of psychology in 1982. He served as Director of the university’s Joint Physiology-Psychology Program from 1984 to 1988 and as Head of the Physiological Psychology Area from 1986-1990 before his appointment as Associate Dean for Computing, Facilities and Research in the UW College of Arts and Sciences in 1991. He served in this capacity until 1994, when he was appointed Dean of the College of
Arts and Sciences at UW, whose student population then numbered 18,000 undergraduate and 3,500 graduate students. Serving in this position until accepting the post of Executive Vice Chancellor at UC Santa Cruz in 1998, Dr. Simpson spearheaded numerous innovations in the college’s interdisciplinary programs, such as the advanced development of a center for humanities research.
A native of California, President Simpson received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California at Santa Barbara. After receiving his master’s and doctoral degrees in neurobiology and behavior from Northwestern University in 1972 and 1973, respectively, he spent two years at the University of Pennsylvania as a research associate of the Institute of Neurological Sciences in the Department of Biology. He has been a visiting professor of physiology at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine, and at the Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine at the University of Melbourne, Australia.
An avid cyclist and fly-fisherman, Dr. Simpson is also an active supporter of the arts. A member of the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy—the governing body of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, he is also a former board member of the Pilchuck Glass School, Seattle’s Intiman Theater Company, and the Henry Art Gallery.
A member of the Board of Directors of the SUNY Research Foundation, President Simpson serves on the board’s Finance and Audit Committees. In addition to serving as a member of the UB Associates Board and as an ex officio member of the UB Foundation Board of Trustees, Dr. Simpson also sits on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership Board of Directors and is a member of the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise. Among his many other leadership roles, he is also a member of the Council on Competitiveness and a former Commissioner of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
In testament to the university’s longstanding leadership in international education, he received an honorary degree from Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in 2007. Appointed to the New York State Commission on Higher Education, he also serves on the American Council on Education’s Commission on International Initiatives.
The father of two adult children, Matthew and Melissa, who both reside in the Seattle area, he now is the grandfather of three. John and his wife Katherine live in Amherst.