Before leaving for the airport on Friday morning, I threw some travel-sized toothpaste in my bag. This made me think of Professor Simon, who one day randomly gifted his public relations and journalism students with travel-sized toothpaste and tiny calendars during class. I smiled at this funny memory of my joyous professor who found so many ways of showing his students that he loves them.
I headed to the airport to fly home for spring break.
During the flight, I started writing my weekly blog post for work (part of my job as a student ambassador at Biola is to write blogs about student life). The topic of this particular post was going to be on my experience in Biola’s MJPR Department (Media, Journalism, and Public Relations).
I decided that one of the main points of the post would be a section highlighting some of the department’s professors—specifically the ones whom I had spent more time with and knew more personally.
One professor I had to highlight, of course, was Professor Simon. I spent several minutes thinking back on my time in his Foundations of Journalism and Public Relations class last semester. So many specific and vivid memories filled my mind. I wasn’t sure how I would possibly narrow down all that I wanted people to know about Bill Simon into a small paragraph! This realization gave me a strong feeling of gratitude, and I realized how privileged I was to be one of his students.
As I finished writing the section about professor Simon, a flight attendant asked me to close my laptop, because we were beginning our descent.
When the plane landed, the first notification I read on my phone was from my roommate:
“Did you get the email that DBC sent out?”
With a bad feeling in my stomach, I opened the email from our school’s president. Immediately my eyes met these words on the screen:
“Bill Simon, our colleague and brother in Christ, passed away unexpectedly after a brief illness.”
I gasped. I paused in disbelief. I broke into tears.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that the last paragraph I wrote before the plane landed was about Professor Simon, and that the first thing I read when I landed was the news of his passing. I believe God orchestrated the details of my life so that I would spend intentional time thinking of Professor Simon before I heard the news. I think God caused me to recall my favorite memories with him and to reflect on our meaningful interactions.
Professor Simon was one of the only people who could somehow manage to speak louder than the constantly berating inner-critic that lives in my mind and causes me to doubt myself. Each time he spoke to me, I felt like I was hearing from Jesus. I think it’s because over time, and with Christ-like love, sincerity, and intentionality, he showed that he cared about me as an individual. So, I trusted what he had to say about me. Each affirmation he gave me was penetrating.
The most meaningful memory I have with him is when he explained why I was a good fit for public relations (which was a doubt that he didn’t know I was having at the time). When he first got to know me, he wanted me to join the journalism side. But much later in the semester he pulled me aside to tell me that he was absolutely certain I was fit for public relations. He proceeded to tell me exactly why, and he pointed out my potential. This was unbelievably meaningful to me, and I’ll never forget that moment.
My heart hurts for everyone else who has been equally and even more impacted by their relationship with Bill Simon. I’m sure the number of broken hearts is countless. I’m grieving for our whole MJPR family, as I know this will leave a big hole in our department. But I want to leave you with an encouragement and a beautiful image:
After learning that I was from Oregon, Professor Simon told me,
“Your roots in Oregon are wonderful … I favor the Bend area myself and have long thought that I might retire out there one day.”
His retirement is being spent in a place that’s millions of times more beautiful and restful. How much better of a retirement he is spending in Heaven with his King Jesus, who he loved more than anything else.
– Jessica Nissen, Junior Public Relations Student