Thomas A. Simons was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1932. In 1944, his parents moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where his father started H. A. Simons Ltd. He enrolled at Washington State College and earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering in 1954. He then joined General Electric as an engineer in training and, in 1956, returned to Canada to work at H.A. Simons Ltd. as a project engineer. In late 1956, he entered the U.S. Army and, after basic training, was assigned to Redstone Arsenal to work on the Redstone missile system.
In 1958, Mr. Simons returned to H.A. Simons. After many project engineering assignments, he was named president and chief executive officer of the company in 1968. Following the acquisition of Simons by Agra Inc. in July 1999, Mr. Simons became a member of the board of directors of Agra Inc.
Mr. Simons, as leader of H.A. Simons Ltd., continued an engineering practice initiated in 1914 by his grandfather in Chicago and expanded the company domestically and internationally through new offices, acquisitions, and the formation of international partnerships and alliances. Under his leadership, the firm has led the export of modern North American pulp and paper mill plant design concepts and equipment to a long list of global forestry industry firms in Latin America, Europe and Eastern Europe, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia. During his tenure, H.A. Simons became one of the two largest global consultants in the forestry industry and placed Vancouver, Canada, in the ranks of Helsinki, Finland, as a center of excellence for international pulp and paper design. When Mr. Simons was appointed head of the company in 1968, it had sales of $25 million and 700 employees. In 1998, the last full year before the sale, the company had sales of $370 million and 2,500 employees.
Mr. Simons has been dedicated to investing in new technologies and developing new areas of expertise in order to keep Simons at the forefront in its field. An intelligent Systems Group provides turnkey (computerized) custom services for advanced information and control solutions. This is used by companies, including a number of Fortune 500 companies, for process control design, project and construction management, and engineering and training to solve manufacturing problems. Considerable emphasis was placed on the development and implementation of project and construction management processes and procedures.
Simons was a founding member of SIMTECH, a one-of-a-kind networked technology and demonstration training center for industrial operations. The firm partnered with the British Columbia Institute of Technology and eight major technological suppliers, including ABB, Rockwell Automation, Hewlett Packard, and Oracle. The center is located in Vancouver at the Institute’s downtown campus and functions like a flight simulator for plant operations. The facility features the latest equipment and software systems for pulp and paper industry and for mining and manufacturing industries. It provides both students and industry the opportunity to test the very latest technology in virtual display and receive training in a simulated operating environment.
Mr. Simons served on the board of governors of the British Columbia Institute of Technology. He is a past director of the Vancouver Board of Trade and the British Columbia Trade Development Corporation. He also served on the British Columbia High Technology Strategy Group. He has received honorary doctor of law degrees from British Columbia Institute of Technology and Simon Fraser University. Mr. Simons received the Benefactor of the Year Award from Council for Resource Development, a North American organization dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of college educations. Philanthropists are recognized in the U.S. and Canada.
Mr. Simons is married to Dr. Jennifer Allen Simons who, in 1985, established the Simons Foundation, with funding from the engineering company, to actively promote education in peace, disarmament, global cooperation, human rights, social justice, and environmental issues. The Foundation is now funded by the Simons family.