Featured Alumni Profiles

Isidore Murray Simon

BA '48, Arts; MA '50, GSAS; PhD '65, Ed

 By Barbara A. Simon, BS '73, MA '74, PhD '81, SEHNAP

Born to immigrants Sarah and Max Simon in New York City, the middle of five children, my father Murray grew up in East Harlem, New York. He attended Boys High in Brooklyn, and before he was drafted into the US Army in World War II, he completed one year of his undergraduate education at New York University's Heights campus in the Bronx. During WWII Murray served as a combat infantryman in the European Theater - earning the Combat Infantry Badge and the Purple Heart.

Shortly after he returned from service, he married my mother, Florence, and worked, while at the same time continuing his studies towards his Bachelor's in Economics at New York University. He completed his studies in June 1948 - graduating on the day after the birth of his eldest child, Wendy.

Murray has always had a passion for learning, and a passion for the Spanish language and its literature. In August 1950, he completed his Masters in Spanish Literature from New York University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

My brother Michael and I were born in between our father's Master's in Spanish Literature and his PhD in Educational Administration. In the 50's my father was a public school teacher, first in North Carolina, where I was born, and later in Yonkers, New York. In Yonkers, at Hawthorne Junior High School, Murray encountered his "dream class" - one that would impact his life in ways he could not then have imagined. To this day, more than 50 years later, he is still in touch with many of those students, having celebrated life cycle events with them, and many joyous class reunions. Two of these students have recently published Murray's autobiography, "My Journey."

In addition to his enthusiasm for the Spanish language, my father's passion for education translated itself into his journey toward his PhD in Educational Administration at New York University. He completed his doctorate in 1965, and we all attended his graduation ceremony on my sister Wendy's 18th birthday.

Just prior to the completion of his PhD, my father became an intern to the Superintendent of Schools in Suffern, New York. The following year, upon completion of his doctorate, he joined the administration of Rockland Community College - first as director of the evening division, and later as Dean of Academic Affairs.

Murray has always had a yen to travel, exemplified by his move to North Carolina - in the early 1950's - where he didn't know a soul. The yen manifested itself again in 1961, when we took a family camping trip across the USA, and yet again in 1964 we took a family camping trip throughout Europe as far north as northern Sweden and as far south as Rome, Italy.

Over the years, several opportunities to work abroad came my father's way, but it wasn't until February 1970 that he took advantage of one. He became an educational consultant in Cali, Colombia. There, he was part of a team on a University of Oklahoma project at the Universidad del Valle. From Cali on, my father immersed himself in international education. Fourteen of those years were spent in Latin America - in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Another ten years were spent in Africa - in Botswana, Liberia and Namibia. In each of those countries, Murray's goal was always to support local efforts to improve the educational system of that nation.

In recent years, my father has made his home in Columbia, Maryland, with his wife Juana, whom he met in La Paz Bolivia, and their children, Viviana, Alexandra and Sarah. Since 2000, Murray has served as an advocate for Hispanic students, whom he believed were being shortchanged by their school systems, due to poor communication, and academic and cultural gaps. To bridge those gaps, Murray founded Conexiones, as the first nonprofit in Howard County, Maryland to focus solely on increasing achievement among Hispanic students.

Since the establishment of Conexiones, a successful nonprofit, Murray has been the recipient of many prestigious awards.

2009
Mt. Hebron High School, Howard County, names the Murray Simon Scholarship Award

Fourth Annual Pat Hatch Award, FIRN (Foreign Born Information and Referral Network), in recognition of Murray's work in supporting ethnic diversity in Howard County, Maryland

2007
Howard County Executive Council proclaims May 19, 2007 as "Murray Simon Day"

Volunteer of the Year, Columbia Jewish Congregation

2006
Educator of the Year, Maryland Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs

2005
Escorpiones Award, Oakland Mills High School
 
2003
Volunteer of the Year, Association of Community Services

Martin Luther King Holiday Commission Award

Nancy Grasmick Award: Award for Excellence in Minority Achievement

Howard County Public School System partnership awards

It is with great pleasure that I share my father's recent honors with NYU Steinhardt as I have the privilege of being – not only the daughter of a three time NYU alum – but also one in my own right.

– Barbara A. Simon