ACPB adviser has access to top Hollywood agents

Melissa Dilley

Tom Simpson, assistant director of the Center for Student Involvement, began working with the All Campus Programming Board more than 30 years ago as a student at Kent State.

Although Simpson took time off to tour with and set up staging for musicians such as the Eagles, The Who, Journey, Van Halen, The Rolling Stones, KISS and Bob Seger, he came back to his alma mater in 1994 as a coordinator for Campus Life, the former name of CSI, and adviser of the group that sparked his interest in programming.

Since Simpson has been working in the music business, he has made connections with agents, celebrities and companies all over the country. In his Rolodex, one could find numbers and e-mail addresses that get the ordinary person in contact with a super celebrity.

ACPB President Colleen Burch has been working with the group and Simpson for more than four years. She said without his guidance and connections, she wouldn’t have been able to achieve the success she has had in programming.

“He makes you try to do things and contact people on your own,” Burch said. “I think we have both independence and support because if you can’t figure it out, he’s always there to help and guide you. I call agents, and they know immediately who Tom Simpson is and ask how he is doing.”

Simpson does most of his work with ACPB, but as assistant director of CSI he deals with any event that requires a contract, despite what group comes to him for help. Simpson said one day the Undergraduate Student Government may come to him with a concert idea, and the next day Black United Students may want to hire a speaker.

“I don’t know what a typical day is like,” Simpson said. “I get calls and e-mails all day from different people, all wanting different forms of talent.”

In addition to booking acts and entertainment, Simpson heads the new late-night programming put on by CSI, which includes midnight movies, Monday Night Football and Xbox tournaments in the Rathskeller.

Other late-night programming includes Rockin’ the Ratt. ACPB programmer Doug Hite books the bands that play in the Rathskeller every Friday and Saturday. Hite said he has learned most of what he knows about programming from the help of Simpson.

“Tom is an adviser, but not in the way that most people think of the term,” Hite said. “He doesn’t just make sure we are behaving. He is hands-on and knows completely how to accomplish what we’re trying to do. He has worked in the private sector and done some high-profile things, so for him to be here teaching us is pretty awesome because there is no degree for this.”

Like many of the current members, in order to get knowledge of promoting and planning events, Simpson relied on his involvement with ACPB .

Simpson graduated from Kent State in 1979 with a general degree that he catered to event planning, but he said his four years spent as an ACPB member gave him the experience he needed to manage booking, staging and contracts for hundreds of performances.

“I know whether the performer and the price they want is reasonable,” Simpson said. “Many of the bands we get to come here are on their way up because agents know who is going to get big. It’s important to make good connections because agents who know you will call and make good offers and suggestions on which performers are good to work with.”

Keeping up with contact information, creating contracts for entertainment, advising ACPB and planning events for students may seem like a lot of work, but Simpson doesn’t stop there.

Simpson also owns The Kent Stage, a concert venue in downtown Kent, and is currently serving as the president of Main Street Kent, a group that organizes activities and conservation for the city. Simpson is also on the boards of other various committees in Kent.

Simpson doesn’t allow his responsibilities to overlap, which can make for a hectic lifestyle. Yet, Burch said she couldn’t imagine him taking time to rest, and if he did, he just wouldn’t be himself.

“He has a lot on his plate, but that’s how he works best,” Burch said. “Tom is one of those people I can’t ever imagine retiring because he always has something fun and new in the works.”

Contact on-campus entertainment reporter Melissa Dilley at [email protected].