Family of Bob Simon ’62 makes gift in his memory
By David E. Nathan
To acknowledge Brandeis’ central role in launching the career of one of America’s most respected journalists, the family of late CBS newsman Bob Simon ’62 made a generous gift to endow a scholarship in his name at the university.
At Brandeis, Simon was a studious history major and devotee of Professor Herbert Marcuse, the renowned political theorist and philosopher. By the time Simon graduated, he was one of the university’s first students to be elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
“It all began for Bob at Brandeis. It was the cradle of his life and career,” says his wife, Françoise, who made the gift along with their daughter, Tanya. “It formed him and informed him. He found his voice at Brandeis.”
The Robert D. Simon ’62 Endowed Scholarship will provide financial support for first-generation Brandeis students. Simon, a native of the Bronx, was the first member of his family to attend college.
“We thank Françoise and Tanya for this gift in honor of one of Brandeis’ most prominent alumni,” says Nancy Winship, P’10, P’13, senior vice president of institutional advancement. “This scholarship will help ensure that a Brandeis education is affordable and accessible to all, a foundational commitment of the university and a principle that is important to the Simon family.”
Although Simon briefly contemplated a career in academia after graduating from Brandeis, the course of his life was changed by the two years he spent in France as a Fulbright Scholar, followed by a stint with the American Foreign Service. He joined CBS News in 1967, beginning a 46-year career that generated multiple awards, including three Peabody Awards, 27 Emmys and universal recognition as television journalism’s leading foreign correspondent.
Simon reported from 67 countries, and covered wars and crises across the globe, including the Vietnam conflict, the Yom Kippur War and the student uprising in China’s Tiananmen Square. At the outset of the Gulf War in 1991, he spent more than a month in solitary confinement in an Iraqi prison, an experience he wrote about in his book “Forty Days.” He joined “60 Minutes” in 1996, and was the program’s foreign correspondent when he died tragically in February 2015 when the car service in which he was a passenger crashed on the West Side Highway of New York City.
“Above all else, he loved telling stories,” says Tanya, a producer at “60 Minutes.” “He needed to be out in the world, and exploring and meeting people. He didn’t like the press releases, the news conferences and working the halls of Congress.”
Simon never lost his love of learning through reading, a passion his mother, Rose, instilled in him at a young age. She often took her son to the library, and Simon even shared his Brandeis reading lists with her so she could follow along at home. He and Francoise passed on their passion for reading to Tanya, who remembers how the family would spend hours deciding which books to bring with them on vacation.
According to Françoise, Simon’s image as a hard-driving, uncompromising journalist did not square with Simon the family man. He enjoyed telling Tanya, when she was younger, fascinating tales from his trips around the world. He was also extremely close to his grandson, Jack, who was 3 1/2 years old when Simon died. They enjoyed reading together, endlessly riding escalators in department stores and disrupting Tanya’s carefully choreographed bedtime routine.
“He didn’t want to be called a grown-up,” Françoise says. “He had this incredible sense of wonder and curiosity about the world, which made him such a good reporter but also allowed him to relate to children so well. He never stopped being a kid.”