Simeon Career Academy was named after teacher, administrator, and specialist in vocational education, Neal Ferdinand Simeon. Mr. Simeon was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 30, 1916 and was of Creole descent. His family was from New Orleans; his father, a cigar maker. He had two sisters and three brothers; Lillian, Ethel, Omer, Albert and Leo. Mr. Simeon married Helen and to this union was born daughter Sharon A. Simeon.
Mr. Simeon graduated from Doolittle Elementary School and went on to graduate from Wendell Phillips High School in 1934 where he was football captain and valedictorian.
Mr. Simeon won an academic scholarship to Northwestern University, but instead enrolled at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), where he starred in track and boxing. While an undergrad, he was the IIT light heavyweight boxing champion and competed in the Golden Gloves. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1938 and was elected to Pi Tau Sigma, an honorary Mechanical Engineering fraternity.
Following graduation, he briefly played semi-pro football and worked in the machine tool and printing supply industries, where he was a tool designer. He was also a licensed pilot and was in one of the first groups to learn to fly under a federal government program. He held a ground instructor’s license and taught aviation mechanics at the famed Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
In 1945 he entered the Navy and served two years as a seaman. While in the Navy, he was a Golden Gloves boxer. He received his Masters in Education from Northwestern University in 1950.
His career as an educator began when he became a teacher at Wendell Phillips Evening High School. A short time later, he became a full time machine shop teacher at Dunbar Vocational High School where he successively served as an administrator, placement counselor, assistant principal, and as Director of Special Projects in vocational education. His last position was as Director of Vocational Education and Guidance Centers for the Chicago Board of Education. He was then the highest-paid African American employee at the Board.
In 1962, Mr. Simeon was called upon by President Kennedy to represent the United States at the International Trade Fair in Lagos, Nigeria. He was given a special leave of absence to supervise the educational and training aspects of the United States Exhibit of New Tools, New Skills, and New Markets.
Mr. Simeon’s interest in the vocational training of Chicago’s youth was evident to all who observed his tireless devotion to his work. He was vitally concerned with the special problems in the area of vocational education. He was eminently qualified to assume the directorship of such a dynamic program of preparing the city’s youth for the forthcoming manpower requirements of our changing economy.
At the age of 46, Neal F. Simeon died on August 28, 1963 at Wesley Memorial hospital in Chicago, Illinois.
Information gathered by the Simeon Alumni Association from the SCA archives, Sharon A. Simeon and a 1963 Chicago Tribune Newspaper article