Dr. Ethel Simon-McWilliams, a strong advocate for children and educational equity, died July 12, 2017. She joined Education Northwest (then known as the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory) in 1979 and served as the organization’s executive director/chief executive officer from the mid-1990s until she retired in 2001.
"Dr. Simon-McWilliams was a courageous leader in the field of education. She was a true visionary whose passion, excellence and integrity were legendary. Perhaps her greatest gift was her generous and unconditional mentoring and guidance of so many throughout their careers."
–Joyce Harris, community outreach manager at Education Northwest
Born in Washington, D.C., Dr. Simon-McWilliams began her education career at a young age as a Sunday school teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree from DC Teachers College, a master’s degree from George Washington University and a doctorate in education from the University of South Carolina.
After many years on the East Coast, where she served as a teacher, administrator and director of the Desegregation Assistance Center in North and South Carolina, Dr. Simon-McWilliams moved to Oregon and began her Education Northwest career.
She received numerous accolades throughout her life, including the National Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Desegregation of Public Schools in 1994 and honors from the Black United Fund of Oregon four years later.
After she retired from Education Northwest in 2001, her friends established the Dr. Ethel Simon-McWilliams Scholarship Fund in recognition of the significant contributions she made in the field of education.
“It is a sad day when we lose a leader of the organization,” said Education Northwest Chief Executive Officer Steve Fleischman. “Under the leadership of Dr. Simon-McWilliams, Education Northwest placed an increased focus on providing services that promoted equity for all students in the region. We are proud that this direction has sustained over the past two decades.”