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The Simon Prize: A New and Different Project to Encourage Young Girls
/ December 8, 2016

Left: Ray and Phyllis Simon pose with the 2016 award recipients at Simon Middle School in May 2016. 

Ray and Phyllis Simon were both born and raised in Conway, Arkansas and graduated from Arkansas State Teachers College, now the University of Central Arkansas. They began their educational careers as mathematics teachers at North Little Rock High School. 

Because of their ongoing investment into improving the quality of education in Arkansas, the Simons were honored in 2006 by the Conway School District Board of Education with the naming of the Raymond and Phyllis Simon Intermediate School, now Raymond and Phyllis Simon Middle School.  In the years following the school’s dedication, the couple dreamed about what they might do to enhance opportunities for the students at Simon Middle School. Drawing on educational research as well as their own life experiences, they devised a plan to foster interest, aptitude and achievement in the field of mathematics for girls in grades five through seven at Simon.  

Their final step was to find a way to ensure that the funds they would commit to this project would be appropriately managed.  During a conversation with their accountant about how they wanted to give back to their Conway community, Bo Conner of Conner and Sartain recommended they create an endowment that would continue making a difference even after their lifetime. 

As a result, the Simon Prize for Excellence in Mathematics for Girls Endowment was created through our local affiliate, Faulkner County Community Foundation. The first awards were presented last May and each recipient of a Simon Prize received a cash award.  In addition, the endowment paid the girls’ registration for an activity that provided an enriching experience in math or math application.  Prize winners will receive continued support with mentoring and networking through ninth grade.

Because the prizes produced from this endowment will be awarded annually, this initiative will have a lasting impact in the lives of girls attending Simon Middle School. 

About Ray and Phyllis Simon’s dedication to education in central Arkansas: 
Ray had the opportunity to join the Conway School District in 1984 as Assistant Superintendent for Finance.  Phyllis followed a year later as a teacher and technology coordinator.  She went on to officially become the district’s first Director of Technology.  In 1991, Ray was named Superintendent and served in this capacity for six years until his appointment as Arkansas’ Commissioner of Education.  Six years later, he accepted the position of Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the United States Department of Education and soon was promoted to Deputy Secretary.


To learn more about how we can work with you and your family to develop a plan that meets your charitable goals, contact us at 501-372-1116 or email Ashley Coldiron

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