Monday, April 3, 2017

William Kelly Simpson

My Doktorvater William Kelly Simpson recently passed away. (You can find his obituary in the New York Times.) I remember a number of his kindnesses to me during my time at Yale. He first became professor of Egyptology at Yale in 1958 and served as my committee chair forty years later at an age when most professors have already retired. He let me take the Late Egyptian Stories class rather than forcing me to retake the beginning hieroglyphs class. He let the students have keys to his office and access to his library, which was mostly better stocked than the University's, on the understanding that we were not allowed to remove books. He had standing orders on almost all major series though he thought that many of them were overpriced. He very kindly gave me credit for a new reading on one of the Illahun papyri in a review that he published. He also gave me a copy of his Festschrift as a wedding gift, and a complete set of the Yale Egyptological Studies published up to that point.

One story: We were reading in class the account of Wenamun (a longish Late Egyptian account of the misfortunes of an Egyptian official who is reporting on the problems he had while on a foreign assignment). Wenamun was waxing eloquent about the greatness of Amon-Re and Professor Simpson remarked that "He sounds just like a Mormon missionary." I replied, "No wonder I like him so much." He took it in good humor.