James Simon was born in 1952 in Clifton, New Jersey. His father, a World War II veteran, and mother raised Dr. Simon and his two brothers in Clifton.
After graduating high school, Dr. Simon began attending Livingston College in the fall of 1970 during the college's second year of operation. As a student, he majored in politics, education and journalism, studying in the fledgling journalism department established by Dr. Jerome Aumente. Dr. Simon wrote for The Medium and helped establish the radio station WRLC.
Upon graduating from Livingston College in 1974, Dr. Simon embarked on a career in journalism and academia. He worked for the Associated Press for ten years. He taught at Livingston College as an adjunct professor of communications under Dr. Aumente. When Michael Dukakis served as the governor of Massachusetts, Dr. Simon worked as his assistant secretary of the environment, during which time he participated in Dukakis' unsuccessful campaign for the presidency in 1988.
He went on to earn a Ph.D. in public administration at Arizona State. After working as a professor of journalism at the University of the Pacific in California, Dr. Simon established the journalism program in the English department at Fairfield University and then became dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the New York Institute of Technology in 2015.