June 11, 2010

Institute plans farewell reception for Patti Simon

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will host a farewell reception for Patricia Derge Simon later this month.

The reception is from 4 to 7 p.m., June 24, at the Institute, 1231 Lincoln Drive, Carbondale. Simon is relocating to the Washington, D.C., area to be closer to her daughter and son-in-law, who are expecting their first child in December.

The “come and go” reception will feature light refreshments.

Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP by Monday, June 21, to Christina Rich, project coordinator at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, at 618/453-4078 or by email at clrich@siu.edu.

In May 2001, former U.S. Sen. and Institute founder Paul Simon married Patricia “Patti” Derge, the widow of former SIUC President David R. Derge, who died in 1996. Paul Simon died in December 2003.

In addition to her support of the University for nearly 40 years, including WSIU and the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Patricia Simon is a trustee with the not-for-profit Lincoln Academy of Illinois. A former high school government teacher, Simon worked for the state superintendent of public instruction, where she worked on higher education issues including budgets and university legislation, and also served on the staff of the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1970.

Simon has also been on the Illinois Humanities Council and served as the organization’s vice chair.

“The Paul Simon Institute is grateful for the unwavering support Patti Simon has provided over the years,” said David Yepsen, Institute director. “She has been a champion for not only the Institute, but for Paul’s legacy as she has tirelessly advanced Paul’s commitment to world water issues.

“We will miss her presence in Southern Illinois, but know she will remain a faithful and ardent supporter of the Institute and the University in her new home near the nation’s capitol,” Yepsen added. “We wish her all the best.”

Simon said she will continue to work on an issue of great concern to Paul Simon -- safe drinking water throughout the world. Paul Simon authored a 1998 book, “Tapped Out: The Coming World Crisis in Water and What We Can Do About It.” The book resulted in “Running Dry,” a 2005 documentary film that examines the world’s worsening water crisis. The documentary played a major role in bringing the issue to Capitol Hill and passage of the Sen. Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005. The legislation focuses on making access to safe water and sanitation in developing countries a specific policy objective of the United States Foreign Assistance Program.

In 2009, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill, introduced the “Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act,” which proposes to provide 100 million people with sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015.

Patti Simon said the legislation passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by unanimous voice vote and is currently awaiting Senate action. There is similar legislation in the U.S. House sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, she said.

Simon said she plans to begin work the second week she is in Washington, D.C., to “see if we can dislodge” the legislation, as well as increase appropriations for the 2005 Act that is already law.

Simon’s daughter, Jennie, and son-in-law, Tyler, live in the Washington, D.C., area. A son, Bill, a pilot with Southwest Airlines and a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves, and his wife, Skye, live in San Antonio, Texas.

“I’m grateful for the wonderful friends I have here. It will be hard to leave them,” Simon said. “But I will return from time to time to help with the Institute any way I can. It’s a farewell at a time in my life when I think it’s time to move on and be closer to my family.”