CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon will be the featured speaker at the University of Illinois Commencement ceremonies May 14.
Simon, who retired from the Senate in 1997, is a professor at Southern Illinois University, teaching political science and journalism classes. He is the founder and director of the Public Policy Institute at the Carbondale campus, and also teaches classes occasionally at SIU's campus in Edwardsville.
He served in the Senate for 12 years, and was Illinois' senior senator prior to his retirement. In the 104th Congress he served on the budget, labor and human resources, judiciary, and Indian affairs committees. He also served on the foreign relations committee.
In 1987-88, he made a bid for the Democratic nomination for president.
Michael Aiken, the chancellor of the UI, said he is pleased that Simon accepted the invitation to speak to the graduates:
"Paul Simon has served the people of Illinois for many years and has played an important role in higher education. He worked tirelessly to win approval of the direct college loan program, and when he left the Senate, he became a college professor. His stature among educators and students is evidenced by the more than 50 honorary degrees he has been awarded. We are honored to have him share his thoughts and perspectives with our Class of 2000."
Simon got his start in politics in the Illinois House of Representatives in 1954 and was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1962. During his 14 years in the state legislature, he won the Independent voters of Illinois' "Best Legislator Award" every session. He was chief sponsor of the Illinois Open Meetings Law and of legislation creating the Illinois Arts Council, and he played a leading role in chartering the state's community college system.
In 1968, he was elected lieutenant governor of Illinois and was the first in the state's history to be elected to that post with a governor of another party. He ran for governor in 1972 but narrowly lost to Dan Walker. He then started the public affairs reporting program at Sangamon State University in Springfield (now the University of Illinois at Springfield) and lectured during the 1972-73 school year at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Simon was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974 and served Illinois' 22nd and 24th congressional districts for 10 years before beginning his career in the U.S. Senate.
Simon was born in Oregon 71 years ago. He attended the University of Oregon and Dana College in Blair, Neb. At the age of 19 he became the nation's youngest editor-publisher when he accepted a local Lion's Club challenge to save the Troy Tribune in Troy, Ill., near St. Louis. Simon built a chain of 13 newspapers in Southern and Central Illinois. He sold the papers in 1966 to devote full-time to public service and writing.
Simon lives in the tiny village of Makanda in Southern Illinois with his wife, Jeanne. They have two children and four grandchildren.