Strong Ties:

Barclay Simpson and the Pursuit of the Common Good in Business and Philanthropy

by Katharine Ogden Michaels
with Judith K. Adamson

Available Everywhere Books Are Sold


May 17, 2022

About Katharine Ogden Michaels

Writer, Editor and Literary Executor, and Restorer of Antique Italian Farmhouses.

About Strong Ties


An in-depth look at the life of Oakland, California native, Barclay (Barc) Simpson, Strong Ties focuses on the set of convictions and leadership qualities that allowed Simpson to build a successful business from nothing and to become one of the leading philanthropists of the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1956, Barc founded Simpson Manufacturing Co, Inc., which he grew from a small, artisan business that fabricated metal connectors into a world-wide, publicly-traded company, known throughout the construction industry as a manufacturer of over 4000 distinct, highly engineered products for tying one structural element to another in residential and commercial projects.

In building the company, he developed a set of principles—revolutionary for their times—that placed employees at the center of the business, while also promoting ethical and community-oriented practices that helped grow the business as surely as the quality of its products. Seamlessly, he went on to apply these same principals to the art of giving money away, providing financial support and leadership to some of the most important non-profit organizations of the East Bay.

In 2022, as Business struggles with new ideas regarding the role of “Stakeholders” as well Shareholders; with how to balance the pursuit of profits with sustainable practices in the areas of “Environmental, Social and Governance” (ESG) concerns; and with recognizing and promoting a diversity of talent that reflects and enhances the communities within which companies operate, this book reads like a primer for understanding the kind of ethical leadership needed in the current turbulent moment.

What reviewers & readers are saying about Strong Ties

About Barclay Simpson

Barclay (Barc) Simpson (1921-2014) was the founder of Simpson Manufacturing Company, Inc., and its primary subsidiary, Simpson Strong-Tie, which he led from 1956 to his retirement from the company in 2012, and from the board of directors in 2013.

The Simpson Man sculpture story

From the mid-70’s Barclay and Sharon Simpson were collectors of contemporary and old master art.  Their elaborate gardens at their house in Orinda include a number of works by contemporary sculptors. Perhaps the most striking of these is the piece called “The Simpson Man”, a recreation of Michelangelo’s David, this piece was constructed entirely out of Simpson Strong-Ties by Igino Pellizzari, and placed in a prominent place in the Simpson’s Orinda garden.  A similar sculpture graces the foyer of the Simpson Manufacturing Co. Inc Headquarters offices in Pleasanton, CA . The photograph of the Simpson Man in Orinda was taken by Joseph Way, artist and long-term employee at Simpson Strong-Tie.

About Leonard Michaels

Katharine’s deceased husband, Leonard Michaels, one of the most widely admired prose stylists of his generation, was famous for his crystalline sentences and compressed, eruptive prose. 

Altabella Italian Villas

Katharine’s Altabella Italian Villas comprise three classically restored stone villas on a 68-acre estate on the border between Tuscany and Umbria, 30 minutes east of Cortona. Experience the deep pleasures of Umbrian country life in a location of extraordinary natural beauty with easy proximity to some of Italy’s richest artistic, culinary and cultural treasures.

Situated on a high hilltop with views of castles, woods and rolling farmland, the houses are within easy distance of ancient hill towns famous for art, wine, wild mushrooms and the mystical traditions of Saint Francis. The houses are all within a ten-minute walk of each other, but each is surrounded by extensive grounds with lovely gardens and terraces and extraordinary panoramic views. Each house can be rented separately or with any of the other houses, accommodating groups ranging from two to twenty-three people.

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