Mark Simpson, 'A Great Man,' Passes

The Colorado Buffalo family lost what one of his colleagues called "a great man" Monday when longtime CU men's golf coach Mark Simpson succumbed to cancer. Simpson was 55.

Simpson, CU's head coach since 1977, was first diagnosed with lung cancer in fall 2004. Following the diagnosis, Simpson underwent four rounds of chemotherapy. In April he had surgery to remove the lower lobe of his left lung, along with some lymph nodes in the region.

At the time, doctors considered the surgery a success. But the cancer returned in recent weeks. Simpson passed away Monday morning due to complications from a blood clot.

CU men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton first became a colleague of Simpson when he joined the Colorado basketball program 10 years ago. He later became Simpson's friend.

"He and his wife, Valerie, are very dear to me and my family," Patton said prior to Monday's basketball practice. "Our prayers go out to his family."

Simpson was in his 29th season as head coach of the men's golf program at CU, his alma mater. Born in Durango, Colo., Simpson was highly regarded in the college golf world and was inducted into the prestigious Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame in January.

He earned Big 12 co-Coach of the Year honors in 2000. He coached seven All-Americans during his tenure, and 119 of the 129 players he brought into the program have graduated with a degree from Colorado.

In early November, CU senior Edward McGlasson won the Tunica National Intercollegiate tournament in Mississippi, his first collegiate win. Simpson had not traveled with the team during its fall tournaments, but McGlasson dedicated his win to the ailing coach.

"Without his coaching, his wisdom and input into my game, there is no way I would be the golfer that I am today," McGlasson said after the win. "I am just so thankful for everything that he has done for me — not only as a player, but as a person."

Patton, along with some others in the CU athletic department, spent some time with Simpson on Saturday, watching the first half of the CU-Texas football game.

"He was truly a great man. You can't say that about everyone, but the fact is he had a heart of gold," Patton said. "We'll miss him."

On Friday, Dec. 9, public visitation has been set between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at Cornerstone Baptist Church, 1190 S. Broadway in Boulder. A private family service at the gravesite will follow at Green Mountain Cemetery.

On Saturday, Dec. 10, a memorial service will take place promptly at 6 p.m. at the Coors Events Center in Boulder. The memorial will last around an hour, with a reception on the concourse afterwards to exchange greetings with family members. Refreshments and light snacks will be served.

Simpson's former players will have the opportunity to gather ahead of the memorial, in a private room on the conference level of the Coors Events Center beginning at 4:30 p.m. He requested that all serve as honorary ushers for the service.

Mark was very direct with his wishes when it came to those wishing to contribute something to the program in his name. His main concern was to have the two established scholarships in the names of Les Fowler (former head coach) and Dale Douglass (CU‚s first PGA Tour professional) fully endowed, which would require $250,000 earmarked for each.

He specifically requested that these be endowed before a similar one is instituted in his name, and the family wants to honor his request. The Fowler Scholarship is about $150,000 shy of being fully endowed, with the Douglass one a bit behind that amount.

Simpson's specific request was to first complete the one in the name of his former coach, and those interested in fulfilling Mark's wish can send in their tax-deductible contributions to the Les Fowler Scholarship Fund, c/o University of Colorado Foundation, P.O. Box 1140, Boulder, CO 80306.

Those who desire to send flowers can do so directly to the Coors Events Center, Regent Drive, Boulder, CO 80309 (303/492-5316).

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