Philanthropists Ron and Sandi Simon
Sandi is a long-time volunteer leader who has served on the boards of many non-profit organizations over the course of her life. A committed ambassador for Hoag, she’s been a member of the Hoag Hospital Foundation Board for the past seven years. “I’m so grateful to the leadership of Hoag for their forward-thinking and decisive action to provide our community with exceptional healthcare,” she says. “I love talking to people about the great work Hoag is doing and how they can get involved.”
One highlight among her many contributions as a board member is her championship of the Hoag Hospital Foundation Benefactor Program. She was a catalyst for growing and enhancing the program which she believes is an important donor recognition tool. She and Ron have been honorary co-Chairs of the annual Hoag Hospital Foundation Christmas Carol Ball for three years, and they open their home each year to host the underwriters’ dinner for that event.
With a combined five children and 11 grandchildren, the Simons place enormous value on family. Sandi, who cherishes her role as mother and grandmother, says that her family and friends give her life great joy. “My number one focus has always been on nurturing my family and friendships. I really appreciate my relationships, and I don’t take them for granted.”
A True Innovator
A first-generation American who started out with little means, Ron has reaped the benefits of hard work combined with his refusal to be limited by others’ perceptions of what’s possible. An innovator in the true sense of the word, Ron’s life-long pattern of challenging “it can’t be done” with “watch me do it” has worked to his great advantage and success.
Today, Ron is the Founding Chairman and CEO of RSI Holding LLC, the parent company of RSI Home Products, a leading manufacturer of kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, cultured marble countertops and medicine cabinets. He is also Chairman of RSI Development and Chairman and CEO of RSI Professional Construction Solutions, which manufactures and installs kitchen and bath cabinetry and wall panels for large national and regional builders. RSI employs over 4000 people and has over three million square feet of manufacturing and distribution space in California, North Carolina, Texas and Mexico.
A 2005 recipient of the prestigious Horatio Alger Award that recognizes individuals who overcome humble beginnings and adversity to achieve success, Ron is a living example of the American Dream. “I hope that others who are struggling will see the stories of the Horatio Alger members as an example of what you can accomplish with hard work and perseverance,” muses Ron. “By facing and overcoming adversities in life you learn to be creative and tenacious, and you figure out a better way of doing things. It prepares you for the future.”
Passing Down the Dream
Ron always deeply appreciated the opportunities afforded to him by living in America, and he wanted to find a way to help others realize their own opportunities for success. In 2003, he and Sandi established the Ronald Simon Family Foundation, which in 2007 became the Simon Foundation for Education and Housing (SFEH). SFEH focuses on helping deserving students to secure college degrees and on building high quality, affordable homes so more people can achieve home ownership.
The Simon Scholars program is a unique six-year program that begins during a student’s junior year in high school and continues through four years of college. It is designed to help disadvantaged but determined students to excel academically and socially and to successfully complete a four-year college degree. During high school the Simon Scholars receive extensive college preparatory support as well as scholarship assistance.
The Simon Scholar program not only breaks the chain of poverty for underprivileged kids, it perpetuates philanthropy. “I believe that education is the foundation of this country and investing in these kids is investing in our future,” Ron says. “Not only will they go on to become successful, contributing members of society, every one of them has it in their hearts to reach a future hand down and lift up the next generation.”
Since 2003, 600 scholarships valued at over $35,000 each have been awarded by SFEH. Of the students who have completed the six-year program, over 90 percent have graduated from college including earning bachelor’s degrees from leading universities such as Harvard, Smith, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine. Ron beams when he talks about his Simon Scholars, “All these kids need is someone who sees the best in them and believes in what they can do. It’s extremely rewarding to support them in attaining their goals.”
Recently, Ron expanded the charter of SFEH to include an affordable housing Initiative which includes advocacy and developing solutions to impact the thinking, understanding and actions of city, state and federal entities. He established RSI Development with the specific mission of developing and building affordable housing for America’s workforce which includes teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses and others who are the backbone of our country. Innovating once again, Ron’s company has developed a construction process that allows it to build high quality, energy efficient homes at attainable prices and is revolutionary to the building industry.
Partnering with Hoag
Long-time financial supporters of Hoag, Ron and Sandi believe that the Orange County community should have access to the best medical care available anywhere. “We live in the best place in the world as far as I’m concerned,” says Ron. “Why shouldn’t we have the greatest hospitals in the world right here? There is nothing wrong with setting our sights high and Hoag is on its way.”
The Simons recently made a $6.25 million gift to provide funds to benefit the Hoag Neurosciences Institute including establishing a $5 million endowment for the Ron & Sandi Simon Executive Medical Director Endowed Chair at Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute. The new endowed chair is awarded to Hoag’s current Executive Medical Director of Neurosciences, Michael Brant-Zawadzki, M.D., F.A.C.R., a world-renowned interventional neuroradiologist.
Ron and Sandi believe Dr. Brant-Zawadzki (known as Dr. BZ) will use the endowment to make a significant impact in our community. “Dr. BZ is a great leader, and we are betting on him to put Hoag Neurosciences on the map and build it into a world-class institute,” says Sandi. “By establishing the chair, we are not only supporting the work of Dr. BZ, we want our legacy to be the elevation of the entire Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute going forward.”