On April 17, 2022, Temple University and the Klein College of Media and Communication lost retired faculty member Herb Simons at the age of 87.
Simons taught at Temple for more than 40 years in what was at that point called the communication and rhetoric department. Now, the closest department is the communication and social influence (CSI) program, though the curriculum has changed quite a bit.
“He weathered this change in home departments several different times,” said former Film and Media Arts (FMA) Professor Paul Swann (he/him).
Swann started at Temple in 1981, when FMA and communications were housed in the same school, and had the pleasure of getting to know Simons as a colleague and a friend.
Simons was a rhetorician, with a specific interest in political persuasion. He wrote the widely-studied textbook Persuasion in Society and loved to examine how words could be used to change someone’s opinion. For many years, Swann and Simons team-taught a critical and interpretive methods graduate course that integrated their expertise in the study and application of verbal and visual literacy.
Simons extended his passion for persuasion and rhetoric to the rest of the Temple community through the creation of the Temple Issues Forum.
“What he was doing was great: to engage students in debates and to talk about important issues in Philadelphia and American society,” said Associate Professor in the Human Resources Department in the Fox School of Business Art Hochner (he/him). For 30 years, Hochner was president of the Temple Association of University Professionals, Temple’s faculty union, of which Simons was a member.
Hochner believes he met Simons through peace and justice activities in Philadelphia in the early 80s and got to know him better through the Issues Forum. “He did what he thought was right, rather than what was by the rules,” Hochner said.
Simons and his wife often hosted Sunday brunches where Hochner got to see more of his personality shine through outside of work. “He was a fun person. He loved to laugh. He loved to play practical jokes,” Hochner said.
In his years after retirement, Simons worked on updated versions of his books.
“He influenced my own work and his impact on future scholarship cannot be overstated,” wrote Professor in the CSI department Lance Holbert (he/him). He noted that among Simon’s many accomplishments are a pair of Golden Anniversary Monograph Awards and the title of Distinguished Scholar for the National Communication Association.
Hochner attended the memorial held for Simons in Germantown on June 11, 2022, where former faculty and students, family members and friends had a chance to share a story about Simons.
“Herb had a big reach. He has graduate students who ended up teaching all over the country. You can see his footprint is all over the place,” Swann said.
Whether it’s the students he mentored, the programs he ran or his passion for persuasion, Simon’s legacy will be long-lasting in the Temple and Klein communities.