February 13, 2004

John Y. Simon wins prestigious national award

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. — John Y. Simon, executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association and a history professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, has won a prestigious national award in recognition of his work with the association.

Simon will receive a special Lincoln Prize for outstanding achievement of 2004 for the landmark “The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant.” The collection currently stands at 26 volumes.

He called the Lincoln Prize award “a great honor.” Simon also is quick to share credit for the recognition with William M. Ferraro and Aaron M. Lisec, assistant editors, and Dawn A. Vogel, textual editor.

This is something I have been working on since 1962,” Simon said. “I have enjoyed it. It has been an opportunity for me to spend time with a spectacular figure in American history. Grant was a complex character — an unmilitary soldier, an unpolitical president and an unliterary author.”

Simon and his staff are working on volumes 27 and 28 in the collection, published by Southern Illinois University Press.

Philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman founded and endowed the Lincoln Prize in 1990. The Lincoln and Soldiers Institute at Gettysburg College administers the awards.

A three-member historians’ jury recommended the winners for the Lincoln Prize after reviewing 146 submissions. British historian Richard J. Carwardine won the first prize of $30,000. Simon receives $20,000 for his special achievement award.

The jury called “The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant” a “magnificent project.”

It is inconceivable that any historian would write on the Civil War without having these volumes at hand,” the jury wrote. “The papers have influenced the writing of the history of this era, providing scholars and popular writers with access to essential documents. John Y. Simon has been an ambassador to the academic and public world, demonstrating the quality of Civil War scholarship, while remaining vitally responsible for the quality of this outstanding editorial work.”

Chancellor Walter V. Wendler said Simon and his staff are “very deserving” of the national recognition.

Professor Simon is a distinguished scholar and historian, and his many years of painstaking work on the Grant papers is a reflection of his commitment and dedication,” Wendler said.

John M. Dunn, provost and vice chancellor, also praised Simon and his staff for their achievement.

This is outstanding national recognition for the vital historical work being done on our campus by Professor Simon and the members of his staff,” Dunn said.

David H. Carlson, dean of Library Affairs, said the award reflects Simon’s life-long commitment to his work. “Professor Simon is known nationally and internationally for his work, and we are very pleased that his dedication has been recognized in this way,” Carlson said. The U.S. Grant Association is housed within SIUC’s Morris Library.

In 1962, the Civil War Centennial Commissions of Illinois, New York and Ohio established the Grant Association and appointed Simon as editor. The Grant project began at the Ohio Historical Society, then moved to SIUC in 1964. Over more than four decades, the association, headquartered at Morris Library, has collected copies of more than 200,000 Grant documents.

Enhancing the culture of research and scholarship is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.