William Simpson went into college as an Aggie and came out as a Ram – and only he can claim credit for that change.
Simpson, now 85, attended the university from 1941 to 1946. During his time spent here, he majored in civil engineering, played on the basketball team as a scholarship player and postponed his education to fight in World War II. But his name will be immortalized in CSU record books as the man who named the ram.
Things were different for CSU in those days. CSU wasn’t yet a university, and instead donned the name the College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts, or Colorado A&M for short. Students and sports teams were referred to as Aggies, and the school lacked a true mascot.
But the name of the game changed when the Collegian held a contest in search of a new mascot. Hundreds of entries were submitted, but only one was chosen.
“I didn’t think I would win,” Simpson said. “We all thought it’s time we got a mascot for the college, so we entered it. We’d go to games and the other schools had a mascot and we wouldn’t. It’s just a natural evolution.”
Simpson claims he found inspiration in his surroundings.
Fort Collins, predominately an agricultural town, was littered in sheep herds.
After debating between the Rams and the Mustangs, Simpson opted for the choice he thought fit Fort Collins and the college at the time, and a Ram was it.
As a prize, Simpson received a $25 war bond.
“It was like winning a lottery,” Simpson said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I won something.'”
After his graduation, Simpson, a California native, returned to his home state and settled in Newport Beach. He practiced structural engineering there for 50 years before moving north to Poulsbo, Wash., to retire and be with three of his four daughters.
He is still an avid sports fan and says he is enjoying his retirement, finding hobbies in lapidary work, tapestries and the banjo club.
He continues to practice engineering through odd jobs for members of his community.
Simpson has returned to CSU multiple times, many of those specifically for reunion events. His most recent trip was last July when he had a chance to visit the old gymnasium and the old engineering building – now a data processing center.
Simpson said revisiting Fort Collins was a bittersweet experience.
“It spoils your memories that it’s changed so much,” he said. “You remember how it was and the things that were familiar and pleasant for you; and you go back and they’re all gone – they’ve changed.”
When Simpson graduated, he said the college had about 2,500 students. Now, that number is more than 25,000. One thing remains the same, however, and that is the name students pride themselves on.
The specific naming of Cam the Ram was not Simpson’s doing, though. The name Cam holds historical significance as its letters were taken from the college’s prior name, Colorado A&M.
So what did the man behind the Ram think of the name bestowed upon his mascot?
Simpson, who did not recognize the name Cam, said he was “not too crazy about it.”
He added: “I’m sure I could improve on it if I worked on it awhile.”
Features managing editor Amanda Schank can be reached at email@example.com.