December 10, 2003

University community mourns loss of Paul Simon

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. --The Southern Illinois University Carbondale community is mourning the loss of Paul Simon, founder and director of the Public Policy Institute on the SIUC campus.

The former U.S. senator died at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9, at the age of 75 at the Prairie Heart Institute at St. John's Hospital in Springfield from complications resulting from heart valve and single bypass surgery. Daughter Sheila Simon, son Martin Simon, wife Patti Simon, and her daughter, Jennie Derge, were at Simon's side when he died.

Visitation will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, at Our Savior Lutheran Church, 700 S. University Ave., Carbondale. Funeral services are set for 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at the SIU Arena. Speakers will be announced later.

Memorials, payable to the SIU Foundation, may be sent to the Public Policy Institute, Mailcode 4429, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Ill., 62901.

Media Advisory

Details regarding arrangements to accommodate reporters and photographers interested in covering the funeral service will be released through a media advisory on Thursday, Dec. 11.

Simon, who lived in Makanda, was a professor at SIUC, where he taught classes in political science, history and journalism. He joined the faculty in 1997, just weeks after retiring from the U.S. Senate. The Public Policy Institute opened its doors that year, as well, to "find new ways of solving some very old problems," Simon said.

SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler said Simon's death creates a "void on this campus that can never be filled."

John S. Jackson, a visiting professor at the Public Policy Institute, knew Simon for 30 years. Simon earned the respect of many through his commitment to the less fortunate in this country and around the world and because of his integrity.

"A lot of people in Southern Illinois felt very close to Paul Simon and they felt like he was a close personal friend," Jackson said.

Under Simon's leadership, the institute developed a reputation for not only exploring such major issues as the role of the U.S. military and world hunger, but for proposing solutions. Campus speakers and seminars this semester alone included: Howard Baker, U.S. ambassador to Japan and former White House chief of staff, and his wife, former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker; Julie Nixon Eisenhower, daughter of late President Richard M. Nixon; former CBS-TV news anchor Walter Cronkite; South Africa Justice Richard Goldstone; and a symposim on "Using the Military as Peacekeepers," featuring retired U.S. Gen. Anthony Zinni.

Born Nov. 29, 1928 in Eugene, Ore., Simon attended the University of Oregon and Dana College in Blair, Neb. At age 19, he became the nation's youngest editor-publisher when he accepted a local Lion's Club challenge to save the Troy Tribune in Troy, Ill., near St. Louis. He built a chain of 13 newspapers in central and Southern Illinois, which he sold in 1966 to devote himself full-time to public service and writing.

Simon used the Troy paper to expose syndicate gambling connections in Madison County.

After serving two years in the U.S. Army in the counter-intelligence corps, Simon was elected to the Illinois House in 1954. He won election to the state Senate in 1962. During his 14 years in the General Assembly, he won the Independent Voters of Illinois' "Best Legislator Award" every session. He was chief sponsor of the state's Open Meetings Law and of legislation creating the Illinois Arts Council. He also played a key role in chartering Illinois' community college system.

In 1960, he married Jeanne Hurley of Wilmette, whom he met while both served in the Illinois House. Jeanne Simon died in February 2000. They had two children, Sheila and Martin, three granddaughters and one grandson. In May 2001, Simon married Patricia Derge, the widow of former SIUC President David Derge, who died in 1996. Patti Simon has two children, Jennie and Bill.

In 1968, Simon was elected lieutenant governor, becoming the people's ombudsman and turning what had been a ceremonial post into one focused on making government better serve its citizens. He was the first in the state's history to win election to the position with a governor from another political party.

After narrowly losing the 1972 Democratic gubernatorial primary to Dan Walker, Simon started the public affairs reporting program at Sangamon State University in Springfield (now the University of Illinois at Springfield), and lectured during the 1972-73 school year at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

In 1974, Simon won election to the U.S. House of Representatives and served Illinois' 22nd and 24th congressional districts for 10 years. He played a leading role in drafting and enacting major legislation in a wide range of areas, including education, disability policy and foreign affairs.

In 1984, Simon upset three-term incumbent Charles Percy to win election to the U.S. Senate. In 1987-88, he sought the Democratic nomination for president and in 1990, won re-election to the U.S. Senate by defeating Congresswoman Lynn Martin.

Prior to leaving the Senate, Simon was Illinois' senior senator. In the 104th Congress, he served on the budget, labor and human resources, judiciary and Indian affairs committees. He also was a member of the foreign relations committee.

Simon held more than 55 honorary degrees and was the author of 21 books (four with co-authors).