Ronald M. Simon, a child of immigrants, embodies the quintessential American dream—a tale of hard work, integrity, and unwavering perseverance. Through these values, he not only built a thriving manufacturing company but also aspired to give back to his community in a meaningful way. In 2002, Mr. Simon, alongside his two children, established the Simon Family Foundation, laying the foundation for a remarkable journey.
The following year marked the inception of the Simon Scholars program, which began by supporting a modest cohort of ten students. Our mission was clear: to develop college-educated leaders who would go on to make a positive impact on the world. However, our path soon evolved thanks to the visionary leadership of Dr. Kathy Abels, a Clinical Psychologist who served as our founding Executive Director.
Dr. Abels recognized that financial assistance alone couldn’t address our Scholars’ unique challenges. Drawing upon her expertise, she crafted a new approach beyond scholarships. With her guidance, our program grew exponentially over the next 15 years, expanding to include chapters in Atlanta, Washington D.C., San Diego, and Orange County, supporting more than 120 Scholars per cohort.
Ben Drutman, who succeeded Dr. Abels as Executive Director, further streamlined our program’s operations to prepare for rapid growth. His leadership led to transformative changes, from a comprehensive digital overhaul to raising funds and adding key positions that allow us to grant up to 200 scholarships per cohort. Resources were strategically redirected from Atlanta, D.C., and San Diego to maximize our impact in Orange County, solidifying our commitment to the region.
Today, we remain unwavering in our dedication to our Scholars. We continuously adapt and innovate to meet their evolving needs. Our Scholars attend and graduate from prestigious universities nationwide and assume leadership roles in diverse industries.
In 2022, Mr. Drutman transitioned to the role of Foundation President, while Andy Robles was appointed Executive Director. Mr. Robles’ journey began over a decade ago as a Program Coordinator. He worked his way up through various roles, including Program Manager and Director of Programs. He is the first in his family to attend and graduate from a four-year college. Not stopping there, he earned an MBA from the University of Redlands.
The Simon Scholars Program is not just a story of scholarships; it’s a tale of dreams realized, lives transformed, and communities enriched. As we look ahead, our commitment remains unwavering, and we continue to empower the leaders of tomorrow who will shape a brighter future.
“Having been born to immigrant parents, I have always deeply appreciated the opportunities afforded to me by living in America. To give back in a meaningful way, I decided to establish a foundation, which led to the creation of the Simon Scholars Program, a unique scholarship program beginning in high school and continuing through four years of college. We focus on students who come from difficult life and economic circumstances and yet are determined to overcome the many adversities and obstacles facing them. It has been deeply gratifying to see firsthand the life-altering power of engaging, supporting and nurturing these students who come from all walks of life and ethnicities as they pursue their dream of achieving the American dream of independence and self-sufficiency.”
Ronald M. Simon, Founder