Every organization has a founder’s story. In Reston the story goes that Robert E. Simon envisioned a place where people were welcomed and welcoming, and the assets that sustain and enrich a person throughout his life were available from the beginning in a new town in which “community” would flourish.
From fulfilling jobs and a wide range of housing types at prices to meet each family’s need over a lifetime, to accessible cultural and recreational experiences to enjoy with good friends or on one’s own, Robert E. Simon envisioned a vibrant, living place that attended to and feeds the soul. While his plans were never fully or perfectly implemented to scale, the blueprints are safe in our hands.
Bob died peacefully at home with Cheryl, his wife, and those who loved him. I hope Bob had a final view of Lake Anne and the plaza he built as the original gathering place in Reston, a place where people connect and build community.
The human experience in Bob Simon’s design was central, as was his goal of inclusivity. Cornerstones—then Reston Interfaith—was established in 1970 to be a part of making the human experience better and to help make Reston more inclusive.
Even in the early stages of development of Reston, our founders saw people whose needs would not be met through physical planning. They anticipated the economic growth that would come to this gateway community would not accrue to all, and there would be men, women and children forced to live in cars, doubled up in apartments or in living situations they couldn’t imagine.
Cornerstones’ founders understood that people could work hard, but not earn enough to support their families. Or that there would always be people in crisis, hungry, driven apart by the stress of debt, or who faced danger in their own homes or communities. As our region has grown and changed, we have seen how differences—such as income or poverty, aging, health or ability, race, ethnicity, culture or language—can be isolating.
Cornerstones seeks to address these challenges by working alongside caring individuals and institutions to foster strong, healthy and connected individuals and neighborhoods. We remain firmly rooted in the Reston community and embrace the goals handed down by Bob Simon. We apply this value—that all may live, work, play and serve—in the many areas in which Cornerstones operates today.
We are deeply humbled that Bob and Cheryl would direct remembrances of his life to Cornerstones, to be used for the continuing benefit of Bob’s community.
Just this past Saturday, I was meandering my way through the market stalls on Lake Anne Plaza, pausing to connect with friends and colleagues, pleased to see individuals and families from Cornerstones’ programs out enjoying the gorgeous day, taking respite from their daily concerns.
Ironically, I was on my way to a meeting convened by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and Fairfax County to share information on human service trends, and affirm the values that will inform planning for future redevelopment in the grid known as Reston Town Center North, and beyond.
It was immediately obvious that many in that room came to express their ideas and needs around the specific design elements of two public buildings and icons of Reston that are slated to be replaced—the Reston Regional Library and the Embry Rucker Community Shelter. But as I have learned from the wisdom of Cornerstones’ founders and my friend Bob Simon, “the importance and dignity of each individual [should be] the focal point for all planning, and take precedence for large scale concepts.” Agree first on what matters. As Bob shared with Reston native Tom Jackman in the State of NoVa column in 2014, “Community. That word is the whole discussion.”
Cornerstones joins in celebrating the life of Robert E. Simon, and the ideas, people and movements he inspired. We will miss his lectures on the value of a liberal arts education, what constitutes good architecture, and the importance of a good martini. Rest easy, Mr. Reston.