Robert L. Simon 1941-2018

From Hamilton College:

Robert L. Simon 1941 – 2018
Professor of Philosophy at Hamilton College

Robert L. Simon died peacefully at home on May 31, 2018, of pancreatic cancer. A memorial service and celebration of his life will take place at Hamilton College on September 8, 2018 at 3:00 in the Hamilton College Chapel. For further information about the service please contact Dannelle Parker at 315-859-4372, or

Bob was born on May 12, 1941, in Brooklyn, NY. He graduated from Lawrence High School in 1959 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College in 1963 and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969.

Bob and his wife Joy (né Weinfeld), newlyweds, moved to Clinton, NY, in 1968, when he was hired as assistant professor of philosophy at Hamilton College. An expert on ethics in sports, his courses on political, social, medical, and legal philosophy affected the lives of thousands of students. Bob embodied the spirit of community excellence not only through his tireless commitment to students, but also through his modesty, humor, and devotion to family, friends, and colleagues. Equally effective in the classroom or on the links, he was known as a beloved teacher, respected coach, tenacious competitor, compassionate mentor, and loyal friend.

Over the course of his nearly 50-year career at Hamilton, Bob held four endowed chairs, won five prestigious national fellowships, and received numerous awards from the college, most notably the Dean’s Scholarly Achievement Award, the Student Assembly’s Sidney J. Wertimer Award, the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award, and the Samuel & Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching, among other honors. In the 2011 ceremony that marked the start of Hamilton’s Bicentennial observance, Bob delivered a talk titled “Why I Teach,” in which, true to his training as a philosopher, he reframed the question. He was a smart, delightful, and inspiring colleague from whom generations of people in the department saw the most important pedagogical virtues in action every day. He was crystal clear in reconstructing sophisticated arguments, open to and generous with critics of the positions he was defending, and happy to continue conversations with students and faculty alike after (and then again before) class.

An authority on sports ethics and the author of Fair Play: Sports, Values and Society, he was named one of the 100 Most Influential Sports Educators by the Institute of International Sport.

In 2016, an issue of the Journal of the Philosophy of Sports was dedicated to Bob’s scholarship. Writing in the first-ever Festschrift by the journal, the editor said: “I’m sure my fellow contributors would agree with me that no Festschrift or other tribute can adequately capture the remarkable influence that Bob Simon has had on our field. We have followed his lead on many issues; we have argued with him on others; we have proposed alternate answers. But most important of all, we have never ignored him.”

From 1986 to 2000, Bob coached the Hamilton men’s golf team, which was frequently nationally ranked and which also competed in the 1998 NCAA Division III National Championship. He also served many years as a rules official for the New York State Golf Association. As a scholar-coach, Bob espoused that participation in sports enhances intellectual life. Through radio and television interviews, several op-ed articles in nationally syndicated newspapers, and in his articles and six books, Bob raised or responded to important public issues such as gender equity, comparable worth, moral judgment, and the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports. In return, he received many recognitions, including being elected President of the Philosophic Society for the Study of Sport (now called International Association for the Philosophy of Sport) and inducted into the Kirkland Sports Hall of Fame.

In October 2017, Hamilton President David Wippman announced that a new golf practice facility will be built and named in Bob’s honor.  The Bell Ringer Award, the College’s highest alumni honor, was presented in his memory in June 2018.

Bob and Joy celebrated their 50th anniversary last year. They were deeply devoted to each other and enjoyed traveling and golfing. They were singularly ardent fans at innumerable Hamilton and Clinton High School sporting events. They were especially passionate about Hamilton’s women’s and men’s basketball teams, attending almost every home game and most away games. Bob loved spending time with his two sons, Marc and Bruce, instilling in them a lifelong love of both sports and learning. He cherished his time with his six grandchildren, telling many stories, making them laugh, and giving them advice. He was a long-time supporter of the Kirkland Town Library, A Better Chance Program, and the Clinton Central School Foundation. The department, the College, and the town are so lucky to have had Bob in our midst! We will miss him tremendously.

Katheryn Doran, Department of Philosophy, Hamilton College