Dear Professor Simon: “Dying young as late as possible”

Thecla Li, Visual Editor

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Nearly two years ago, I was a girl from Singapore who had no idea if I was going to be able to succeed as an international student, much less a journalist. Somewhere deep in me, I had hope, a hidden, unknown hope, that I would succeed and that everything would magically end up okay. Professor Simon saw that spark and not only did he draw it out of me, he was also the catalyst behind transitioning that dream into a goal.

Simon once said to me, “To me, the idea is to die young as late as possible.”

Professor Simon was always busy—a man in constant motion—but in spite of this, he never stopped sharing his love of life with those around him. The thing that made Professor Simon’s relationship with us so impactful was his intentional way of making every single student feel special. The time that Simon’s love spoke the most to me was at my very first class session with him. Simon had a knack for breaking the walls of unfamiliarity within seconds in his special way. With me, Simon chose to sing. The cheerful melody of “Getting to Know you” from the movie “The King and I” has now become a bittersweet tune reminding me of a man who wasn’t afraid to give.

To his very last days, Professor Simon’s life was joyful. Throughout my time at Biola, he taught my peers and me how to grow with both dignity and humor, to built resilience yet be vulnerable at the same time—and, when the Lord finally calls, how to meet Him with courage, with pride and with cheer in the promise of what lies ahead.

Professor Simon’s precious legacy to us is his most precious values, integrity, faith and family. He taught us to give back to the community and recognized that serving others enriched the giver’s soul. A valuable lesson I received from him was that accepting failure is part of living a full life. However, he never forgot to remind us not to be defined by that failure.

Though I mainly saw a more cheerful side of him, I later learned that Professor Simon, a man of quiet faith, also shared an amount of sadness equal to that of his joy. We bonded over the loss of both our fathers to cancer, and I am so thankful that God gave me that opportunity to return, but a small percentage of the comfort Professor Simon had given me.

Now that he has gone on to a better place, I am thankful that he can live on in me as well as the many more he has impacted.

To Professor Simon personally—I am going to miss you. Your decency, sincerity and kind soul will stay with me forever. So, through my tears, I hope to see the blessings of knowing and loving you—a great and noble man, and the best professor a student could have the great fortune of meeting.

To my peers, professors and friends, let us smile knowing that someday we will see Professor Simon again—and when we do, it will be for eternity.

Thecla Li, Visual Editor