New Medill scholarship memorializes social justice reporter and alum Darran Simon


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Fisk Hall. Medill’s new scholarship supports graduate students pursuing social justice reporting to honor journalist Darran Simon.

Justine Fisher, Reporter

Medill’s newest scholarship for graduate students dedicated to social justice reporting honors renowned journalist Darran Simon (Medill ’04), who died in April 2020. 

Once the Darran Simon Memorial Scholarship has a fund of $100,000, it will be awarded yearly to a Medill graduate student. The scholarship was founded after classmates reached out to Medill Dean Charles Whitaker about honoring Darran’s legacy, Whitaker said. This led to the idea for the scholarship funded by Darran’s parents, classmates and faith community. 

Whitaker said the scholarship is a way for people to remember Darran as someone who committed himself to social justice issues. 

“If you were to go through his portfolio and read the work he did online, you saw tremendous compassion and dedication to writing about underserved communities and people who are often marginalized, overlooked, and not often written about with care and compassion in mainstream media,” Whitaker said. 

Darran Simon wears a grey suit and smiles at the camera.
Darran Simon. (Photo courtesy of Belinda Clarke)

Darran planned to cover Washington, D.C. politics for The Washington Post and hoped to report on city residents facing gentrification, failing health care systems and veteran homelessness, Medill lecturer Fenit Nirappil (Medill ’12) wrote in a tribute to Darran.

Darran’s first job out of graduate school was at the Miami Herald before he moved to The Times-Picayune to cover Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. He then worked for numerous publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday and CNN Digital. He was also a 2019 Ochberg Fellow with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. 

“Darran knew the power of a story,” said Washington Post reporter Robert Samuels (Medill ’06), a member of the Students Publishing Company’s board of directors. “When he went to the Times-Picayune after Katrina, it wasn’t just because it was a good, prestigious job. It was because he knew he could really change something through the work to highlight inequality.” 

Samuels said he met Darran at Medill and always looked up to him as a friend and mentor, even joining the Miami Herald in part because Darran worked there.

Gunder Rask, a classmate, roommate and life-long friend of Darran, said Darran’s background as an athlete gave him a relentlessness that showed through in his journalistic abilities. 

“His superpower was probably gentleness combined with this fierce, work-rate competitiveness and striving to improve,” Rask said.

Darran’s father, Stephen Simon, said his son sought to uplift the voices of those that were hurting to illuminate shared experiences. 

His father described a column Darran started for his high school paper called “Unsung Heroes.” 

“The idea was that there are people out there who are not being recognized,” Stephen Simon said. “And you need to let them know that, even though they’re laboring in an era that they’re not being seen, that people do value their contribution.” 

When his parents heard of a scholarship in his name, they saw it as a way of remembering their son’s dedication to helping young journalists, his mother Jacqueline Simon said. 

She said they hope the scholarship will help another student find purpose. 

“We know that we may have been sad,” she said. “We still are sad. We remember. But God will turn his death around for good.”

Clarification: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the endowment status of the scholarship.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Darran’s reporting at The Washington Post and misattributed the source of this information. The Daily regrets the error.

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