President John Simon


John D. Simon, Lehigh’s 14th president, is an internationally renowned chemist and highly respected leader in higher education. He took office at Lehigh on July 1, 2015.

During his time at Lehigh, Simon has worked to raise the university’s national profile, strengthen and grow its research infrastructure, expand its global programs and build on its long, proud legacy of success in teaching, research and service. In the fall of 2016, the Lehigh Board of Trustees endorsed Simon’s ambitious growth plan for the university, one which will see Lehigh significantly expand its undergraduate and graduate student populations, recruit new faculty, build new academic and student housing facilities and launch an innovative college of health.

Simon has also overseen Lehigh’s efforts to build a stronger presence on the West Coast. The university opened its Western Regional Office in San Mateo, Calif., in 2016, and later entered into a partnership with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center in San Francisco. The university aims to leverage these new initiatives, as well as existing Silicon Valley–based programs, to better connect with West Coast alumni, create strategic industry partnerships, provide immersive learning opportunities for students and cultivate a stronger admissions presence in the region.

A strong advocate for research, Simon created the Presidential Research Initiative in 2017 with the aim of supporting top Lehigh faculty as they work to generate new knowledge and pursue groundbreaking projects with the potential to change the world for the better. The first of these presidential research grants will provide an interdisciplinary research team with $3 million over five years to explore methodologies to more fully utilize the data generated at Lehigh’s Electron Microscopy and Nanofabrication Facility, and allow for real-time integration of experimental results and complex computer models to drive innovation in research.

Simon has also furthered the university’s commitment to ensuring that students of all financial backgrounds have access to a Lehigh education. In December of 2016, Lehigh joined 29 other top universities in launching the American Talent Initiative, a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies through which participating institutions will seek to enroll and support lower-income students and conduct research that will help other institutions expand access as well.

Simon came to Lehigh from the University of Virginia, where he served as executive vice president and provost. In that role, he was responsible for the academic administration of each of the university’s 11 colleges, as well as its library system, art museums, public service activities and foreign study programs. In all, Simon oversaw the academic activities of 2,200 instructional and research faculty, 14,500 undergraduate students and 6,500 graduate students, and managed a budget of $1.4 billion.

During his tenure at Virginia, Simon spearheaded a number of global initiatives, including the establishment of a new major in global studies and the opening of a physical presence for the university in Asia. He played a leading role in the launch of the University of Virginia’s cutting-edge Data Science Institute as well as its Advanced Research Institute, and in creating the university’s Endowment for the Arts. He also appointed several of the University of Virginia’s deans and oversaw the hiring of several hundred faculty.

Previously, Simon served as vice-provost for academic affairs at Duke University from 2005 to 2011. During his time at Duke, he guided the university’s strategic planning process and drove initiatives aimed at connecting the humanities, social sciences and sciences. He was chairman of Duke’s department of chemistry from 1999-2004 and also held appointments in the Duke University Medical Center in both biochemistry and ophthalmology.

Simon received his B.A. from Williams College in 1979 and his Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University in 1983. After a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA, Simon joined the department of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California San Diego in 1985 and then moved to Duke University as the George B. Geller Professor in 1998.

He is married to Diane Szaflarski. John and Diane have two sons, Evan '19 and Alec.


B.A., Williams College (1979)
Ph.D., Harvard University (1983)
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Los Angeles

Research Interests

Simon’s research interests for the past decade have been focused on understanding the structure and function of human pigmentation. Most recently, he has been collaborating with scientists from around the world to study the intact pigments recovered from the Jurassic period. He has authored or co-authored nearly 250 academic papers and four books.

Awards and Honors

Simon has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards for his scientific work, including the Presidential Young Investigator Award, Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award and the Fresenius Award. He is a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society.

Curriculum Vitae

Read more about Simon’s distinguished career and accomplishments. View full CV (PDF) >