News & Updates

Legacy lives, gives

During his time at Bradley University, David Simon found ways to improve life on campus.

“He was one of those guys who walked into a room and made it a lot better,” said fellow Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity member Garrett Williams.

And Simon, a 1992 graduate, continues to improve life on the Hilltop, even after his death 17 years ago.

Simon was preparing for his career and marriage when he was killed in a tragic accident on a sidewalk at O’Hare Airport in Chicago in 1993.

Shortly after his death, Simon’s family members established an endowed scholarship fund in Simon’s memory.

“It shows how a family – in response to one of the worst tragedies any family could possibly experience – decided to pool all their talents to create a scholarship in their son’s memory,” said Dr. Alan Galsky, Bradley’s vice president for student affairs. “They started that at the place in David’s young life where he probably had his best experiences, which was Bradley University.”

Since its inception in 1993, the scholarship has awarded about $100,000 to 39 Bradley University students, including $15,000 to six students during the 2009-2010 school year. Recipients are selected from Sigma Phi Epsilon, Simon’s fraternity, and Sigma Delta Tau, his girlfriend’s sorority.

Students must embody the characteristics that made Simon such an incredible student and friend.

“David was a very typical Bradley student who overachieved in terms of his Bradley experience,” Galsky said. “He got involved as a student outside the classroom and that helped shape a very first-class, worthwhile Bradley career. He was really easygoing and a good person, and he had a good sense of humor.”

Those receiving the scholarship have graduated from Bradley and gone on to become teachers, lawyers, civil engineers, financial analysts and marketing managers, to name a few. Others have pursued advanced degrees.

John Felbinger graduated from Bradley with a degree in health sciences and is currently pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy on the Hilltop. He said he felt honored to receive the scholarship and to meet the Simon family.

“It gave me a deeper appreciation for college financial aid charities and, needless to say, I felt a little closer to a fraternity brother taken before his time,” Felbinger said.            

The giving extends beyond Simon’s immediate family. Each year, members of Sigma Phi Epsilon host a golf outing fundraiser in Simon’s memory, with all proceeds going to the memorial scholarship fund. Simon’s father, Jon, died in 2009, so both he and David Simon were honored at this year’s event.

More than 100 people attended the golf outing and dinner in June, making it the largest event to date.

One of Simon’s fraternity brothers, Garrett Williams, helped found the golf outing in 1996. Simon’s death hit Sigma Phi Epsilon members particularly hard, not only because they were so close to Simon, but because they had just graduated and moved away from each other.

“The Simon Scholarship activities have been not only a way to support the university and to remember David, but it’s been an opportunity to get back together,” said Williams, who now works as associate general counsel for State Farm Insurance.

The scholarship and golf outing show how a group of people can turn tragedy into triumph.

“It shows the real meaning of fraternity,” Galsky said. “Not only has the family adopted this as their major program, but the fraternity itself has adopted this as one of its major fundraising efforts. That shows the commitment and love of family, fraternity and university.”