Longtime Richland County educator and administrator Chris A. Simpson has been named Olney Central College President and Vice Chancellor of Business Operations for Illinois Eastern Community Colleges.
Prior to joining OCC, Simpson served as the Superintendent of Schools for Richland County Community Unit 1, where he led the school district from 2019 until his retirement in June. In all, he spent nearly 25 years with the district including four years as assistant superintendent.
During his tenure with the district, Simpson oversaw significant projects such as the $31 million construction and renovation of Richland County High School and the completion of the $7.5 million Pre-K Center. Simpson also implemented the Grow Your Own Program to address the current teacher shortage and developed a comprehensive long-term strategic plan and school improvement process.
“I am very humbled and grateful for this opportunity,” Simpson said. “This is a great opportunity to utilize my strengths to help move the college forward and to join the work that has been going on at Olney Central College for almost 60 years. I am excited to be a part of that legacy.”
Simpson holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Greenville College — now Greenville University — as well as a master’s degree in biology education and an education specialist degree in educational administration from Eastern Illinois University.
A Fairfield native, Simpson began his career in 1988 as an elementary science teacher in Loda, Illinois. He later joined West Richland High School, where he served as a biology instructor for nearly nine years.
In 1998, he moved to East Richland High School holding positions as biology instructor, science department chair, assistant principal and ultimately principal in 2004. As principal, Simpson successfully facilitated the merger of West Richland into East Richland, resulting in the establishment of Richland County High School. He also spearheaded various initiatives, including a program to support ninth graders in their transition to high school and a cultural exchange program with a German high school.
Simpson’s exceptional efforts were acknowledged by the Wabash Valley Region of the Illinois Principals Association, which honored him as High School Principal of the Year in 2011 and presented him with its Innovative Education Award in 2007.
“I’ve had a lot of experience in educational leadership,” Simpson said. “One of my strengths is that I am an effective communicator. I’m someone that can develop positive relationships with colleagues and the community. I have a strong work ethic to get the job done.”
Simpson will assume his new role at Olney Central College on August 7. He emphasized the importance of building relationships during the transition.
“I’m excited to get on the job,” he said. “My first priority is meeting and getting to know the people at OCC. I mentioned in my interview that I believe first comes the who, then the what. I want to get to know the faculty, staff, students and Foundation members and then begin the process of establishing specific goals.”
Simpson resides in Olney with his wife, Michelle, who is a teacher and librarian at Richland County Elementary School. The couple has three children, Haley, who graduated in 2022 with a master’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Illinois at Springfield; Cole, who graduated from Greenville University in 2022 with a double major in digital media and marketing; and Keen, a junior at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale who is majoring in history education.