Victor Simpson ’63, former Rome Bureau Chief for the Associated Press, will share his insights about a career chronicling four papacies as a guest of the President’s Forum Speaker Series on Monday, March 31. His talk titled, “Roman Holiday: 40 years as a foreign correspondent” will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the Geneva Room of the Melly Academic Center. It is also available online.
During his career, Simpson has had a rare vantage point on history, speaking candidly to Vatican insiders and four popes. As bureau chief, Simpson was responsible for directing coverage in Italy, including the Vatican. He joined The Associated Press in Newark, N.J., in 1967, where he worked the general desk and the foreign desk before being appointed news editor in Rome in 1972. Simpson covered the entire papacy of the late John Paul II, accompanying the well-traveled pope on most of his foreign trips.
During a flight with Pope John Paul II in 1988, Simpson was given the exclusive opportunity to hear the pope issue one of the strongest endorsements of his papacy, one supporting fellow Poles striking against communist authorities in the Gdansk shipyard.
Simpson described the experience in a retrospective article, “John Paul launched into a broadside against communist authorities and lent his full papal support to the strikes.” The pope’s statements as recorded by Simpson and printed on the front pages of newspapers around the world are considered a landmark in the pope’s role in bringing down communism in Eastern Europe.
During his three decades overseas, Simpson also covered the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and Anwar Sadat’s groundbreaking visit to Israel. Prior to retirement in 2013, he wrote about the Amanda Knox murder trial, the unprecedented retirement of Pope Benedict XVI-for which he postponed his own retirement by a month so as not to miss the opportunity to cover another groundbreaking moment in history- and the Conclave that selected Pope Francis.
A native of New York City, Simpson earned a B.A. in political science and economics from Hobart College. As a student he was active with WEOS-FM and was a member of the baseball team.
Established in the winter of 2000 by President Mark D. Gearan, the President’s Forum Series is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members. The most recent guest of the President’s Forum was Dr. Kathy Platoni ’74, clinical psychologist, author and retired U.S. Army Colonel.
Other recent speakers have included Todd S. Purdum, senior writer at POLITICO and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair; Gus Schumacher, executive vice president of policy and co-founder of Wholesome Wave; and Former Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, the first woman in American history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress.
In the photo above, Rome Bureau Chief Victor Simpson ’63 (left) shakes hands with Pope Benedict XVI during the flight from Beirut to Rome. Simpson has chronicled four papacies in 35 years covering the Holy See. (AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano, ho).