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Dr. Gary Simpkins

Dr. Gary A. Simpkins

Gary Alexander Simpkins III was born on March 3, 1943 and passed away in his Las Vegas home on August 26 ,2009.  After earning his Masters degree from Harvard in 1971 and his EdD from the University of Massachusetts in 1976, Dr. Simpkins established himself as a true leader and role model in the field of psychology, and made important contributions to our understanding of the role of dialect readers in the education of speakers of African American English. In addition to serving as a mental health/clinical psychologist for several years, Dr. Simpkins founded the Black Student Psychology Association to assist students of color in being accepted to, and graduating from, prestigious universities. Furthermore, he was a great influence for many young African American graduate students who continued to have successful careers in psychology.

In addition to his clinical and programmatic accomplishments, Dr. Simpkins wrote three books and authored many articles. Much of his work focused on the status and educational needs of inner city youth and linguistic-social-cultural issues in society. Together with G. Holt and Charlesetta Simpkins, he wrote the celebrated dialect readers for elementary students, Bridge:  A Cross-Culture Reading Program (Experimental edition, 1971, Boston:  Houghton Mifflin).  In a widely cited 1981 paper (“Cross-Cultural Approach to Curriculum Development” in G. Smitherman, ed., Black English and the Education of Black Children and Youth), Gary and Charlesetta Simpkins reported that in a field test involving 530 students across the country, students taught using the Bridge reading program showed an average of 6.2 months of reading gain over 4 months of instruction, compared with students taught by conventional methods, who showed on average of only 1.6 months of reading gain over the same period.  In his subsequent single-authored book, The Throwaway Kids (Brookline Books, 2002), Gary provided further details about the Bridge research.  He also prepared and attempted to publish an updated edition of the Bridge readers in 2001, co-authored with Geneva Smitherman and C. Stalling, but for various reasons, the publication effort was not successful.  Gary’s final book, co-authored with his brother Frank Simpkins, was Between the Rhetoric and Reality (Rosedog 2009). According to the publisher’s blurb, this book “traces the history of the Black American population and their unique plight, which began upon their arrival in Jamestown, Virginia, before the Mayflower landed. The authors weave their own autobiographical accounts with major historical milestones, chronicling the African-American plight from Reconstruction to Brown vs. the Board of Education to present-day America. The authors focus their work on the American educational system, highlighting the question, “Were African Americans better off before the decision of Brown vs. the Board of Education?”

Gary Simpkins was passionate about music and poetry and created G-Group Music, Inc. to foster this enthusiasm. He will be missed by his six children: Gary Jr., Ronald, Sabrina, Cory, Jamila, and Kenan; seven grandchildren: Mathew, Gary Jr, Keith, Samaj, Bryce, Ania, and De’Davion; two brothers: Frank and Rene Simpkins; his friends, and neighbors.

For more information about Dr. Simpkin’s accomplishments, click here.

–Modified from an Obit in OEME Communiqué, by Ayeska Baez, senior, New York University, Renee Blake, Associate Professor of Linguistics, NYU, and John R. Rickford, Stanford.

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