DALLAS (SMU) — A landmark $20 million gift from Harold C. and Annette C. Simmons will provide endowment for SMU’s School of Education and Human Development and the lead gift for a new building to house the School. The School will be renamed the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development in honor of Mrs. Simmons, an elementary education graduate of SMU.
“Harold and Annette Simmons have demonstrated time and again their generosity and vision in meeting critical needs of our community, region and nation,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “As civic leaders who deeply value education as the foundation of human achievement, they will help us extend SMU’s leadership in education. This gift will be instrumental in further defining the scope and impact of these programs.”
Announcement of the gift was made at a campus celebration Nov. 9 attended by members of the University and Dallas communities, including local school officials, and SMU alumni on hand for Homecoming Weekend.
Although education programs have been a part of SMU’s curriculum since the institution’s early years, SMU renewed its commitment to this important field in 2005 by creating the School of Education and Human Development with specific areas of focus.
The School offers graduate-level and specialized programs to develop advanced skills for educators and strong research programs on how students learn and develop language skills. Specialized programs include those in literacy training, bilingual education, English as a second language, gifted student education and learning therapy. Also offered are programs for master educators to enhance teaching skills in disciplines such as science, technology, reading and mathematics. The School also offers a new Ph.D. in education focusing on literacy, language and learning; a Master of Education with teacher certification; and a Master of Bilingual Education. Research and service centers include the Institute for Reading Research, the Gifted Students Institute and the Diagnostic Center for Dyslexia and Related Disorders.
For undergraduates seeking teacher certification, SMU offers the dual benefit of in-depth education through academic majors in the arts and sciences, coupled with certification through the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.
In the area of human development, the School offers Master’s degrees in counseling, dispute resolution and liberal studies, along with wellness courses and non-credit enrichment classes.
“With our areas of focus, the Annette Caldwell Simmons School offers a unique combination of programs addressing some of the greatest challenges in educating our young people in a rapidly changing environment, and others focusing on needs such as resolving disputes in a civil society,” said David J. Chard, dean of the Simmons School of Education and Human Development. “SMU has a rich history of educational leadership in disciplines critical to our region. Further development of our education programs will strengthen our important partnerships with local school districts and community agencies, and will make us increasingly competitive for external research funding with national implications.”
The Simmons gift allocates $10 million toward construction of a new facility, to be named the Annette Caldwell Simmons Building; $5 million for graduate student fellowships; and $5 million for faculty support and an endowed deanship.
As the lead commitment for a new building on the SMU campus, the Simmons gift launches a campaign to complete funding for the facility, which will include classrooms, research laboratories and offices for the School’s education programs.
The School’s dispute resolution, counseling and selected other programs will remain in Plano at SMU-in-Legacy, giving the School a presence at both University locations.
In addition to support for the new building, the gift establishes two endowed funds named in honor of Harold Simmons’ parents, both of whom were educators. His father, Leon Simmons, was superintendent of schools in Golden, Texas, and his mother, Fairess Simmons, was a teacher. The $5 million Fairess Simmons Graduate Fellowship Fund will provide a minimum of 10 graduate fellowships for students in the School’s Master’s and Ph.D. programs. The remaining $5 million will create the Leon Simmons Endowed Deanship and Faculty Recruitment Fund.
“I grew up in a home that valued education,” Harold Simmons said. “My father and mother both were educators, and they sacrificed so that I could attend college. I’ve been able to use my education to become successful in business and to support important efforts that have an impact on other people’s lives. I am pleased to support this innovative school at SMU, Annette’s alma mater, and to name it in her honor. It will represent our shared commitment to support teachers likes the ones who made a difference in our own lives.”
Harold Simmons is founder, chair and CEO of Contran Corporation, a holding company with interests including chemicals, metals, waste management and computer support systems. He earned B.A. and M.S. degrees in economics from the University of Texas at Austin.
Simmons’ relationship with SMU began in 1961 when, in his late 20s, he borrowed money to buy a small drugstore on Hillcrest Avenue across from the SMU campus. The University Pharmacy and its lunch counter were popular shopping and eating spots for the campus community during the 1960s. Simmons built that store into a chain of 100 drugstores across Texas. In 1973 he sold the stores to Jack Eckerd, who further developed the chain as Eckerd Drugs. Simmons then launched his career as an investor, with Contran Corporation as his holding company.
Simmons is a former member of the executive boards of SMU’s Edwin L. Cox School of Business and Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. His previous gifts to SMU include $1.8 million to establish the Simmons Distinguished Professorship in Marketing in the Cox School and $1.2 million for the President’s Scholars program. His other charitable contributions have included major support for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Annette Simmons earned a B.S. degree in elementary education from SMU in 1957. She is a former member of the board of the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series. She has served on the boards of numerous civic organizations, including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Parkland Foundation and National Kidney Foundation of Texas. Her community honors include the Crystal Charity Ball Hall of Fame Award and the Champ Award of the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance. Most recently, she is a recipient of the YWCA of Metropolitan Dallas Centennial Award, recognizing 100 Dallas women who have made lasting civic contributions to Dallas within the 100 years of the organization’s existence.
Harold and Annette Simmons together received the Southwestern Medical Foundation’s Charles Cameron Sprague Community Service Award and the Annette G. Strauss Humanitarian Award.
As SMU prepares to celebrate its Centennial, the University is seeking increased resources for scholarships, faculty resources, academic programs and the campus experience. The Simmons gift provides major support toward those efforts.