Revered headmaster, friend of children
BANGALORE: Lt. Col. Eric Joseph Simeon, revered headmaster and distinguished school educationist, died of cancer at the Army Hospital (Research and Referral) in Delhi on Tuesday. He was 89.
Col. Simeon's career in education he was headmaster of some of India's most prestigious schools from the early1960s to the mid 1980s began rather unusually in early 1961 when as a Corps of Signals officer stationed in Delhi he was summoned by the then Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon and told to start the first of the Sainik Schools at Kunjpura near Karnal in erstwhile Punjab.
In partnership with his wife, Jean, herself a loved teacher and friend to children, he gave to the Sainik School, Kunjpura, an environment of learning, trust and happiness that his students many of them in senior positions in the Indian armed forces today remember with gratitude and affection. His distinguished leadership attracted the immediate attention of educational institutions in different parts of India.
After his retirement from the Army in 1967 he served successively as the headmaster of the La Martiniere School for Boys, Calcutta (1967-1970); the Doon School, Dehra Dun (1970-79); and the Cathedral and John Connon School, Bombay (1979-1986). Eric and Jean Simeon left their imprint on each of these schools and on the future of the students they taught and nurtured.
Among his students are the present Vice Chief of Army Staff, and a Pulitzer prize winner who expressed her appreciation of his role in her professional life when she learnt of her award.
As a headmaster and teacher Eric Simeon was known for his concern and understanding of the educational needs of adolescent children. He invested a great deal of thought and time on children between the 9th and 12th classes, years he believed were crucial in the formation of the future adult. In his later years he often expressed satisfaction that he had "left the education field before commercialism became the guiding principle of school education."
Eric Simeon was born in 1918 in Allahabad. He graduated in English Literature from the University of Allabahad. He leaves h0is son, Dilip Simeon, family, friends and the many students whose lives he touched.