CARBONDALE - Monday would have been the 82nd birthday of Sheila Simon's late father, former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon.
Coincidentally, Monday was also the day Southern Illinois University Carbondale threw a going-away reception for Sheila Simon, Illinois' Lt. Gov.-elect. After meeting hundreds of well-wishers at the two-hour reception, Sheila Simon spoke about what her deceased parents might have thought of their daughter's successful run for statewide elected office.
"There have been lots of times I have been thinking about mom and dad and how excited they would have been about this," Simon said. "They were passionate advocates of everyone getting into the act. I think they would be very pleased."
Members of the SIUC community appeared just as pleased as they helped Simon turn the page on working for the university's law school and Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Her duties in Springfield will now take precedence.
Frank Houdek, associate dean at SIUC's law school, presented Simon with a gift to remind her of her time at SIUC. Chancellor Rita Cheng said she was excited to have a Saluki in Springfield, but Cheng jokingly reminded Simon she can expect her former employers to stay on top of what's happening with university funding.
"My gift to you will be constant inquiry about SIU," Cheng said.
Simon was a faculty member at SIUC for more than 10 years.
Matt Baughman, associate director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, presented Sheila Simon with an article highlighting a sing-along the new lieutenant governor had with her father and a former Canadian prime minister after a speech on the campus.
Houdek touted Simon's "intangible contributions" to SIUC as things she could use in Springfield. Houdek said Simon is "an absolutely fabulous listener" who brings energy and enthusiasm to all she does. He called Simon a creative and inventive "people person" who looks at things from a different perspective.
"She just comes at virtually everything with an open mind and a willingness to see all sides of a sub-ject," Houdek said.
Simon heard from scores of people Monday, but the main question they had for her had nothing to do with governance. Simon said most people with whom she spoke asked her if she was moving from Car-bondale.
Simon addressed those concerns in a brief speech during the event, saying, "We are definitely deeply rooted in SIU and Southern Illinois."
Simon leaves today for a conference of lieutenant governors in Nebraska.
Source: The Southern