Obituary and Condolences

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Obituary for J. Richard Simon

J. Richard Simon, 87, died on Wednesday, May 3 following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

A Memorial Service will be held at 11:30 AM, Saturday, July 29th at The University Club, 1360 Melrose Avenue, Iowa City. A luncheon will follow the service.

He will be buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Greensboro, North Carolina on Sunday. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Parkinson’s Disease Research.

Simon was a professor of Psychology and Industrial Engineering at the University of Iowa. His research on cognitive functioning resulted in the discovery of the “Simon Effect.” This is the understanding that people produce faster and more accurate responses when the stimulus occurs in the same relative location as the response. Hundreds of experiments using the Simon Effect have resulted in better emergency response procedures and reduced human error. In 2008, a conference entitled, “Responding to the Source of Stimulus: An Interdisciplinary Conference in Tribute to J. Richard Simon” was hosted by his colleagues Professors Eliot Hazeltine and Toby Mordkoff.

Not only was Simon active in research, he was also a long-time teacher in both the Psychology and Engineering schools. His courses focused on the application of psychology to organizations and the designing of work environments to promote greater satisfaction, safety and efficiency. During his lifetime, he established several scholarship funds supporting promising graduate students.

After receiving his Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin in 1955, Simon spent a year as a Fulbright Fellow at Cambridge University in the UK where he researched performance changes and aging. He also spent a year at the American Institute for Research in Pittsburgh before his appointment at the UI in1957.

A lifelong Anglophile, Simon spent seven sabbaticals as a Visiting Professor at different universities across the UK. He especially loved London – strolling in Regent’s Park, visiting the British Museum and watching his favorite ballerina, Tamara Rojo, fly across the Covent Garden stage.

When he retired, Simon pursued an interest in African tribal art. He became a collector of Ibeji twin figures, made by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, and donated his collection to the University of Iowa Art Museum.

In his youth, Simon was a long-distance runner and he continued exercising for many years, despite his illness. He also enjoyed playing squash and table tennis, but was beset by deep frustration on the golf course.

Simon and his late wife Betty enjoyed arts and culture. He sponsored the elevator in the newly re-opened Hancher Auditorium in her name. Simon's tastes were eclectic ranging from Korean arthouse films to grand opera.

He is survived by his daughters Alissa of Chicago and Sue of New York; sister in law Jean of Naples; brother in law Gianni of San Francisco; and his wife’s sister Rita and her husband Jack of New York. Dear friends Liana, Sharon and Lora provided extraordinary care for Dr. Simon in his later years.

Online condolences may be sent to www.lensingfuneral.com


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