The Simon Award for Campus Internationalization not only brings recognition to the selected institutions, it also honors the career of an outstanding statesman.

The late Senator Paul Simon of Illinois served his state and the nation as a strong voice for civil rights, prison literacy, peace initiatives, and international education. He was a strong advocate throughout his career for international education, using his positions on various committees in the Senate to advocate for exchange. His leadership in this area was especially evident in his robust support, along with Senator David Boren, for the creation of the National Security Education Program, which addresses critical national security deficiencies in language and cultural expertise.

In the months preceding his untimely death in December 2003, Simon had been working diligently to persuade the federal government to support a new initiative that would create education abroad fellowships for U.S. students because he placed a tremendous importance on the ability of this country's future leaders to know and understand the broader world outside its borders.

Simon's vision for this program was ambitious, with a goal of sending 500,000 U.S. students to study abroad each year for a semester or summer term. In his forward to NAFSA's 2003 task force report on education abroad, Simon noted, "If we want to improve our nation and the world, we must be willing to sacrifice a little. This major national initiative and the recommendations of [NAFSA's] Strategic Task Force on Education Abroad can lift our vision and responsiveness to the rest of the world." This fellowship effort has survived him and is moving forward.