Alumni Profiles

Meet James and Kathryn Simpson (both '99)

simpson family


Pictured: The Simpson Family

During the late 1990s, two young Herff students became crazy for all things Herff, and then fell crazy in love with one another. The Simpsons—James from Munford, TN, and Kathryn from Clarksville, TN, (both '99), were recruited out of their respective high schools to attend the Herff College of Engineering.

"U of M made a great impression," Kathryn says. "My dad went to Vanderbilt and they offered me a scholarship, too, but Memphis did a better job than any other college at recruitment. I felt really special. The U of M came to my high school and held an exclusive event in Nashville just for scholarship recipients." James remembers, "U of M did the right amount of recruiting. I was kind of being pestered by another school. One day they called to ask me if I had made up my mind and that pesky phone call pushed me to blurt out 'yes,' but the answer was Herff!"

The Herff program is intimate, so the two classmates bumped into one another quite a bit that first year on campus. But the real chemistry between them took hold the summer before they were sophomores. They recall studying together a lot, "It was nice because there weren't any bad feelings that we wouldn't see each other. We were both in the same groove. We could sit side-by-side while doing an immense amount of work. We were really independent individuals, but could be together to study, even in those upper years when we no longer had the same classes."

After Herff, they both pursued graduate degrees at Rice University. Kathryn achieved a PhD in bioengineering and accepted a position at Medtronic in 2004—bringing the young couple back to Memphis. With a focus in environmental engineering, James took a position as senior design engineer for the City of Memphis. "I am the main person responsible for the creation and management of the City's drainage masterplan program which will eventually spawn a series of capital improvement projects designed to relieve flooding concerns in Memphis."

Not a practicing engineer, Kathryn took a different path, "I realized in grad school that I liked writing and synthesizing information from different places. My Herff internship had been with Medtronic and I knew it was the perfect place to use those communication skills." Kathryn started as a clinical submissions writer, but soon moved to the regulatory group and is now director of a team overseeing new and existing products in Medtronic's spinal portfolio. "I don't directly use a lot of the technical skills I learned at Herff, but my time there taught me to think, solve problems and speak the technical language which is invaluable to my career today."

As if life wasn't busy enough building accomplished careers, these two also have the hard work of raising a family. Their two young sons are all about the Memphis Tigers. Kathryn beams, "My youngest wants to sleep in his Tiger jersey every night and the oldest is learning the fight song." Look out, Herff. A pair of Simpson dynamo brothers could be on campus in about 15 years.