Distinguished Research Professor Ronald L. Simons has been named the University of Georgia’s recipient of the 2019 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award.
The SEC award recognizes professors with outstanding records in teaching and scholarship and is administered by provosts at each of the 14 universities in the conference. Simons, who is a faculty member in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’ department of sociology, will receive a $5,000 honorarium.
“Dr. Simons is an extraordinary scholar who consistently produces high-impact research, has achieved an impressive record of external funding, and has received numerous professional accolades,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “He has brought great distinction to the University of Georgia and is a deserving recipient of the SEC Faculty Achievement Award.”
Simons’ research has revealed the impact of social and environmental conditions on gene expression, aging and health. His longitudinal studies about the impact of persistent family economic hardship and conflict on biological aging and the development of chronic illness, including cancer, diabetes and dementia, have resulted in the creation of programs for at-risk families.
His research has garnered more than $45 million in grant funding, which includes continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health for three decades. That work has resulted in more than 220 peer-reviewed articles and several books. With more than 28,000 citations, Simons ranks in the 99th percentile for sociologists and in the 95th percentile or higher in the fields of family studies, criminology and developmental psychology.
Simons, who is a Fellow of the American Society of Criminology, has a strong reputation for mentoring students from groups underrepresented in his discipline, including several students who developed an interest in sociology while they were incarcerated. In all, he has mentored and supervised nearly 30 students who earned a Ph.D. in sociology, most of whom have gone on to become faculty members at research universities. His former students include six academic department chairs, three deans, an associate provost and an assistant to the president.
Eric A. Stewart, a former doctoral student, serves as the Ronald L. Simons Professor of Criminology at Florida State University, an endowed professorship that Stewart chose to name in honor of his mentor. “Professor Simons was a model professor: a passionate, energetic teacher who stimulates interest in the subject matter, devotes a tremendous amount of time in passing on the theoretical and methodological tools of the discipline in a highly effective manner, and actively fosters the professional development of those fortunate enough to study or work alongside him,” Stewart wrote in his nomination letter. “I can truly say that I owe my career to Professor Simons’ mentoring and guidance in shaping my development in the field.”
Simons is a Fellow of UGA’s Owens Institute for Behavioral Research and serves as co-director of the UGA Center on Biological Embedding of Social Events and Relationships, which studies the intersections of genetic and environmental contributions to health and health behavior.
“Dr. Simons has dedicated his career to making a positive impact on individuals and communities,” said Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Libby V. Morris. “He exemplifies how outstanding mentorship and innovative research can change lives for the better.”