A death announcement last week in the Houston Chronicle caught my eye. I never met the late Stephen Simon, but what I read made me realize that the quiet heroes and heroines of free-market capitalism need to be saluted now and then. For they are the wealth creators and real philanthropists versus the political system’s wealth redistributionists and wealth destroyers.
Here is the essence of this man. An engineer. More than 40 years with a major energy company in a variety of advancing positions at home and abroad. Successful. Private sector philanthropist with his time and money.
And through it all, a “heroic capitalist” in the Smith-Smiles-Rand tradition (see Part I of my Capitalism at Work). A practitioner of Principled Entrepreneurship ™.
Think of what Julian Simon would have said about Stephen Simon (no relation): He created more than he consumed to leave us resource richer. And he used that wealth to create still more wealth and advance civil society.
Finally, think of Mr. Simon and his company when you think about the names that made the news at the once rival of ExxonMobil, the late Enron. (Enron’s Ken Lay, in fact, joined Exxon two years before Simon as a corporate economist before going to Washington for various assignments and never really getting politics out of his blood.)
The obituary follows:
J. STEPHEN SIMON, 1943 – 2009 J. Stephen Simon, a former director and senior vice president of Exxon Mobil Corporation, passed away unexpectedly at his home in Dallas, Texas, on Wednesday, July 8, 2009, at age 66.
Mr. Simon had a long and distinguished career of over 40 years with the corporation. During this time he held a series of increasingly senior roles, culminating in his election to the board of directors in 2006. He retired from the company on May 31, 2008.
Mr. Simon joined Exxon Company, U.S.A. in June 1967 and shortly thereafter began a two-year assignment in the United States Army. He returned to Exxon U.S.A. in July 1969 as a business analyst in the Baton Rouge Refinery.
After holding a variety of supervisory and managerial positions throughout the Baton Rouge and Baytown refineries, and Exxon U.S.A.’s Refining and Controller’s departments, Mr. Simon became executive assistant to Exxon U.S.A.’s executive vice president, located in Houston.
In 1980, he returned to the Baton Rouge Refinery as Operations Division manager, following which he became refinery manager. In 1983, Mr. Simon moved to New York where he was executive assistant to the president of Exxon Corporation. In 1984, he moved to London, England, as supply manager in the Petroleum Products Department of Esso Europe Inc. and then supply and transportation manager. Mr. Simon returned to Houston in 1986 as general manager of Exxon U.S.A.’s Supply Department, and in 1988, he became chief executive and general manager, Esso Caribbean and Central America located in Coral Gables, Florida.
Mr. Simon moved to Italy in 1992, to become executive vice president and then president of Esso Italiana. He returned to the United States in 1997 and was named an executive vice president of Exxon Company, International, headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey. In December 1999, he was appointed president of ExxonMobil Refining & Supply Company and vice president of Exxon Mobil Corporation. In December 2004, he became senior vice president of Exxon Mobil Corporation and in January 2006 was elected to the board of the corporation.
Beyond his leadership roles at ExxonMobil, Mr. Simon also served on the boards of many voluntary organizations over the course of his career, including the United Way, the Boy Scouts, and the Salvation Army. He was also a member of the Governance Committee of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering and had served on the board of the US-China Business Council, the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers. Following his retirement from ExxonMobil, he became Chair of the Board of Visitors for Duke University’s School of Engineering and had also been active in support of the Children’s Advocacy Center in Dallas.
Mr. Simon is survived by his loving wife of 43 years, Susie; daughter Marnie and her husband Nicolas Medina, of Houston, Texas; daughter Angela and her husband Steve Reynolds of Nashville, Tennessee; daughter Candice and her husband Rick Murillo of Frisco, Texas and grandchildren Alexandra, Nicolas Jr. and Isabel. Also surviving are his brother Dan of Columbia, Missouri; sister Sheryl of Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania; brother Mike of Winterhaven, Florida and father B.D. Simon of Columbia, Missouri. He was preceded in death by mother Joan Francis Simon, who passed away in 2008.
In his memory, the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University has established the J. Stephen Simon Scholarship Endowment Fund. Memorial contributions to the J. Stephen Simon Scholarship Endowment Fund may be made to Duke University in care of Judge Carr, 305 Teer Engineering Building, Box 90271, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708.
Steve was an amazing person — a loving husband, father and grandfather. We will miss him dearly.