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The University Magazine


Carolie Simone had three companions as she began her journey from Hawaii to Rochester in 1992. One was her husband, Al Simone, who was set to become RIT’s eighth president. The other two were American Sign Language books.

Interpreter Sam Holcomb ’77, left, coaches Al, Carolie and daughter Laura in American Sign Language shortly after their arrival at RIT in 1992.

RIT is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and Carolie was eager to embrace its deaf community. She learned several signs before stepping off the plane.

And that was just the beginning.

Carolie became an eager student of not only sign language, but deaf culture. She took an active role in the NTID community and joined the board of directors at the Rochester School for the Deaf, serving as board president from 2004-2005.

“Her initial curiosity about deafness quickly evolved to a steadfast demonstration of her dedication and commitment to not only NTID’s mission, but to help improve opportunities for deaf youngsters as well,” says T. Alan Hurwitz, NTID CEO/dean and RIT vice president.

Debbie Denton, one of the Simones’ four children, says Carolie has been instrumental in her father’s success.

Carolie prepares Al for the unveiling of a tiger sculpture, installed on the Liberty Hill grounds.

“My father is very successful. But if you were to match him up with any other type of woman other than my mother, it would actually hurt his ability to be successful,” Denton says. “She is the person that balances his stress. She has a unique ability and strength to be the supportive one in the relationship. I really look at her as the rock and the foundation of what makes it all work.”

It hasn’t always been easy. The Simone’s house is RIT’s house – literally. The couple lives at Liberty Hill, a historic cobblestone home that was given to RIT during its 150th anniversary campaign in 1978.

Al Simone frequently says that Carolie has “lived above the store” during his tenure at RIT. The Simones entertain guests on an almost daily basis, hosting large groups for breakfast meetings, luncheons and dinners.

“I think always being in the public eye has been very difficult at times,” Denton says. “My father thrives on being in the spotlight. She can do that, and she will do that. But it’s less of a comfort zone for her. It has been a huge challenge.”

Nobody knows more about the challenges Carolie has faced than her husband.

“You all see her as the person who greets people at the house and the hostess and the person who sits on all the committees and all that,” Al Simone said at the news conference announcing his retirement last May. “But her real contribution is putting up with me for all of these years.”

John Follaco