January 28, 2022

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‘Generous American’: Naples philanthropist, Warren Buffett confidante, dies at 85

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He began as a college professor and made his fortune as an investor.

Yet Naples resident Louis A. Simpson would be remembered more for his philanthropy, donating millions of dollars from everything to medical research to the arts complex where his name is inscribed at Artis—Naples, along with that of his wife, Kimberly K. Querrey.

Simpson, 85, died Saturday in his native Chicago but he primarily called Naples home.

“Lou was known internationally for his brilliance in investing, but anyone who knew him also knew he was a fun-loving, down to earth guy who liked nothing better than gathering with friends,” Kimberly K. Querrey said.

“He took great interest in everyone and made everyone who met him feel valued and important.”

Previously: Musician Renald Richard, who co-wrote Ray Charles’ ‘I Got a Woman,’ dies on Marco Island

And: Naples mourns loss of pioneering Realtor John R. Wood, considered ‘larger than life’

Six years ago almost to the day he died, Simpson and his wife donated $15 million to Artis—Naples, the largest gift in the organization’s history. The announcement kicked off a $50 million fundraising campaign.

Artis—Naples CEO and President Kathleen van Bergen offered a statement Tuesday afternoon:

“Not only will Lou be forever remembered as a wise sage, music-loving friend and pillar of our cultural campus, but I am forever grateful to Kimberly and Lou for their remarkable philanthropic leadership, generous commitment to access and enthusiastic belief in what Artis—Naples brings to this community,” van Bergen said.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Kimberly and their loved ones at this time of sadness.”

Simpson grew up in Highland Park, Illinois, and received his bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and a masters in economics from Princeton University, where he later served as a professor.

Simpson became more involved with investing and researched stocks, eventually moving to the business world, where he would serve 17 years as president and CEO of Geico Corp.

While at the insurance company, he became a friend and confidante of billionaire and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett. Buffett, in 1995, named Simpson in an annual shareholder letter as someone who would be able to succeed him in making investments for all of Berkshire Hathaway.

Simpson and Querrey wed in 2000 and the couple became major philanthropists, donating millions of dollars for scholarships, academic positions and more. They gave $92 million in 2015 to Northwestern University to finance construction of the Biomedical Research Center that bears their names.

Between the two, they donated more than $250 million in total campaign giving to all areas of the university. The Chronicle of Philanthropy five years ago named them to its list of the top 50 most generous Americans.

“Lou distinguished himself as a giant in the world of investing, then went on to become one of the foremost champions of our University, alongside his beloved wife, Kimberly,” said Northwestern President Morton Schapiro in a statement this week.

“Northwestern couldn’t be what it is today without him, and his name will live on in perpetuity on our campuses because of his vision for funding world-class work in science, medicine, engineering and business.

“He was also one of the most faithful and loyal supporters of Wildcat athletics. I will miss him dearly as a friend, as will countless others.”

In addition to his wife, Simpson’s other survivors are his three sons: Irving, Kenneth (Carmen) and Edward “Ted” (Kandus); his five grandchildren: Allie McGuire (Cooper), and Tyler, Kennedy, Palmer and Beckett Simpson; his three great-grandchildren, Lachlan, Clementine, and Hamish; his “naughter,” Melissa Querrey; and his nephews Andrew and Robert.

Gifts of remembrance may be made to the Big Shoulders Fund, 212 W. Van Buren, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60607 or bigshouldersfund.org.

Simpson and Querrey were major financial supporters of the Big Shoulders Fund, a nonprofit that supports Catholic schools with the highest needs in Chicago.

“He had a keen interest in the future of children and was committed to those children,” Monsignor Kenneth Velo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and a co-chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund, told the Chicago Tribune in a story about Simpson’s passing.

“His impact was made in our Big Shoulders schools, and he saw us as being values-based and safe environments, and he always talked about our schools being ‘islands of hope’ so students could go from them and go on and do great things.”

Dave Osborn is the regional features editor of the Naples Daily News and News-Press. Follow him on Instagram @lacrossewriter and on Twitter @NDN_dosborn.

Harriet Howard Heithaus contributed to this story.

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