Simpson honored for decades of achievement in education

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Dr. Marinelle Simpson is known as a teacher who had a significant impact on the lives of her students.

Dr. Marinelle Simpson, center, receives a Women in American History Medal and certificate from Amy Penn (left) and Helen Busbin of the Andrew McBride Chapter of the DAR. Special photo

Though it’s been nearly a quarter-century since she retired, Simpson continues to be recognized for helping to set the standard for teachers in Henry County over four decades.

Simpson, 85, recently received a Women in American History Medal and certificate from the Andrew McBride Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

Helen Busbin is the Regent for the local DAR chapter. She voiced high praise for Dr. Simpson, both personally and professionally.

“Having known Marinelle for many years, I feel that she is the epitome of a fine Southern lady,” says Busbin. “She has made great strides throughout her entire life. It’s my privilege, on behalf of our chapter, to present this prestigious award to her.”

Dr. Simpson’s daughter, Claralyn Simpson, says her mother was “elated” to be honored by the DAR for her work in education.

“Her whole career has been education,” the daughter says. “Particularly for young ladies, she was a strong role model. That encouraged her students, in general, to further their education. She always told me that education was never lost, that it was an investment. It was a steppingstone to where you wanted to be.”

Dr. Simpson grew up in Lamar County and came to Henry in 1950 after graduating from the University of Georgia. She began her career with the Georgia Agriculture Extension Service as an assistant home economist to the county.

Dr. Simpson achieved another distinction when she completed a term as president of Georgia’s statewide 4-H Council. It was during this time that Simpson began achieving a number of “firsts” for women in education, says her daughter.

“She was the only female in the United States named to represent the 4-H program as a delegate to the first White House conference on Youth and Children,” says Claralyn Simpson.

The educator met and married James Simpson in 1955. Together, they had three children over the next decade -- Gordon, Amanda, and Claralyn, who says her mother soon faced a decision that would ultimately shape the rest of her career.

“She had to give up her job with the Extension Service, because its leader at the time declared that women with children under six years of age could not serve as agents who taught homemaking skills,” says Claralyn. “Undaunted, she turned to teaching, a career choice in which she has few equals.”

Marinelle Simpson began her career in education at Hampton Elementary School, teaching math, English, and science to fifth, sixth and seventh graders. She later earned her second degree from UGA, a Master’s of Science in Education, then began 16 years of teaching science and biology at Henry County High School.

Claralyn Simpson says her mother continued to pursue her own education while teaching students, being one of the first students at UGA to receive an Education Specialist degree.

“This was degree number three for her,” she says.

Soon afterward, Dr. Simpson was named an assistant administrator at Henry County High School. Two years later, she became principal at Henderson Elementary School.

“At that time, she was the only female principal in the county,” says Claralyn. “During her tenure at Henderson, she completed the requirements for the Doctorate in Education degree in 1985. It was her fourth and final degree from the University of Georgia.”

Claralyn says her mom is grateful that people remember her fondly in the local educational community, and the community at large. She says her mother’s success as an educator is reflected in the relationships she built with those she taught.

“She just had a rapport with her students,” the daughter says. “She taught them how to study and how to take what they learned, study it and apply it to every day. She was always an open door if anyone needed her. She was always available to them as an educator.”

Amy Penn, recording secretary for the Andrew McBride Chapter of the DAR, says when the group was being organized several years ago, Simpson was one of the first people to lend a hand.

“She was excited about starting a chapter here and we began working on her applications right away,” says Penn. “This is how I learned so much about her. She was a trailblazer for all the women in education in Henry County. She was the ‘first’ in many roles that women educators take for granted now.”

Dr. Simpson retired in 1991 and became a full-time volunteer for organizations including the Arts Alliance, the Henry County Scholarship Foundation, Henry Clean and Beautiful, the AARP Board, the American Cancer Society, the Georgia Retired Educators Association and the National Teachers Hall of Fame. She has served stints as president of the Georgia Retired Educators Association, AARP of Henry County, and the Henry County Retired Educators Association.

Simpson also founded Henry County Cancer Services, Inc. She is a Lifetime Member of the Georgia Master 4-H Club, a member of the First Baptist Church of McDonough and a member of the McDonough Woman’s Club. She has two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.