Remembering ICPSR Data Champion Piper Simmons


Remembering ICPSR Data Steward Piper Simmons


ICPSR is mourning the loss of a true gem, ICPSR data champion Piper Simmons, who passed away on Jan. 21, 2022, at 63. 

Piper retired in 2019 after providing ICPSR with over 32 years of service and dedication to ICPSR and the University of Michigan. Piper’s most recent role at ICPSR was as a member of the Project Management and User Support unit and as a member of the Acquisitions team. She played a key role in helping depositors, assisting researchers with data management plans, and establishing ICPSR's acquisitions leads workflow. 

She will always be remembered for her passion and knack for finding data depositors in a sea of lost data. We will miss Piper’s big smile, her warm, positive energy, kindness for all her colleagues, and a seemingly never-ending supply of interesting life stories.

Do you have a fond Piper memory? Please feel free to submit them to share with her family and the ICPSR community.


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"I worked closely with Piper on the acquisitions team at ICPSR from the time I started until she retired. I fondly remember sharing many laughs with Piper as we tried to solve issues submitted by users together. She was always willing to lend a helping hand and was so generous with her knowledge, both work-related and of things going on in the Detroit area. She had such a positive, relaxing energy that always made me feel uplifted after any interaction with her." 

-Shane Redman, former colleague and friend, ICPSR

"Piper was quiet and humble, so it was always such a joy to be gifted with a story from her amazing life. Two will always stand out to me: 1. that she knew Aretha Franklin and just dropped that fact casually in a conversation 2. Her story about being invited to Ghana and staying longer than originally planned (my recollection is that it was months she was away living what sounded to be a beautiful time) even though she had a job waiting at home."

-Dharma Akmon, former colleague, ICPSR

"I first met Piper when I was teaching in the ICPSR Summer Program in 2006, a year before I joined ICPSR.  It was after 5:00, and I had just discovered that I would need some office supplies for my class the next day.  Piper sensed that I was a little panicked about getting it done in time.  She calmly took me around to the storage cabinets until we found what I would need.  Piper’s kindness and compassion came out in everything that she did.  It was no wonder that people depositing data at ICPSR loved working with her."

-George Alter, former ICPSR Director and colleague

"Piper was always ready with a warm smile and encouraging word, or advice. She made every moment count. I am blessed to have called her friend."

-Dory Knight-Ingram, friend and former colleague, ICPSR

"Piper contributed so much to the organization during her 30+ years at ICPSR. Her diligence in tracking down fugitive data and providing support to data depositors was remarkable and served to expand and enrich the archival holdings. On a personal note, it was always a pleasure to talk with Piper – she was a great listener with an open heart. I am so grateful to have spent time with her and to have experienced her warmth and kindness."

-Mary Vardigan, Archivist Emerita, former colleague and friend

"In all the years I served as an Official ICPSR Representative (OR), I knew I could always ask Piper if I needed help for data management,  depositing data and any other little thing. She was always so friendly and supportive and it made my work so much easier. As technology changed and the ways we shared and saved data changed, she helped us at the member institutions evolve with those changes. And because she served so many years, her institutional memory made her invaluable to new OR's. Sending condolences to her family and to all of those in her ICPSR "family." She was truly an ICPSR treasure and will be missed by us all." 

Libbie Stephenson, UCLA OR, 1978-2016 

"Many will remember Piper as an extraordinary person whose long career and service in many different roles was central to the success of ICPSR.  One essential element of that success was the unwavering dedication and perseverance that Piper displayed in her contacts with data producers to encourage them to deposit their collections.  Some of us working in acquisitions and collection development would meet in the turret every Friday morning to review the status of new deposits and ones that were in the "negotiation" stage.  Piper would often inform us of the lengthy discussions she had to "encourage" depositors to do the right thing.  We tried not to ask too many detailed questions;)  Because of her persuasive skills, the archive now contains many, many collections that might not ever have seen the light of day.

For me, though, it was personal.  Piper lifted my spirits with every hallway encounter and conversation that I had with her over so many years.  She had a wonderful spirit and smile that always made you feel welcome and valued.  I loved her stories about family weddings and the trips that she had taken and, most of all, of her plans after her retirement.  I am so sad that she had such a short time to pursue her dreams.  She was such a good soul and I miss her very much."

Peter Granda, former employee and colleague, ICPSR


Jan 24, 2022

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