DALLAS (SMU) — A year after celebrating a $20 million gift from Harold and Annette Simmons, SMU broke ground today on the building that will house the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.  The gift provides an endowment for the previously unnamed School and serves as the lead gift for the Annette Caldwell Simmons Hall. Mrs. Simmons, a former teacher, is an elementary education graduate of SMU.

Speakers included Mrs. Simmons; SMU Board of Trustees Chair Carl Sewell; SMU President R. Gerald Turner; Dr. David J. Chard, the Leon Simmons Endowed Dean of the School; Brad E. Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs; Dr. Reid Lyon, SMU distinguished professor of education policy and leadership; and Beverly Weiser, a Ph.D. candidate in education.

See a video of the groundbreaking ceremony. 

“When the Annette Caldwell Simmons Hall is completed, it will mark the culmination of the work and contributions of many, led by the vision and generosity of two—Harold and Annette Simmons,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.  “As their own lives have been profoundly touched by education, this wonderful new building will be the starting place for new generations of educators and for new research on teaching and learning. In many ways, this building will stand in honor of all teachers.”

The new Hall, targeted for completion in the spring of 2010, will consolidate programs that have been housed in a variety of classrooms and offices. The building, positioned prominently on the east side of campus, is designed to be welcoming to students and visitors. It will include classrooms; research laboratories, including exercise physiology and biomechanics labs; faculty and administrative offices and student support areas. With the construction of this new building, as well as continuing programs at SMU-in-Legacy in Plano, the school will have a visible presence at both of SMU’s Dallas-area campuses.

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 Ph.D. in  educational research; 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, the Center for Child and Community Development, and the Diagnostic Center for Dyslexia and Related Disorders. In addition, the Master of Science Counseling Education Program gives graduate students hands-on counseling experience in the newly opened SMU Center for Family Counseling.

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 human development, the School offers master’s degrees in counseling, dispute resolution and liberal studies, along with wellness and non-credit lifelong learning classes.

“The generous gift of Mr. and Mrs. Simmons has given our School great impetus over the course of a year. I’m proud to say that we’ve been able to strengthen our academic programs in a swift and steady way, ” said Dean Chard.

“Already, we’ve added faculty, doubled the size of our doctoral program in educational research, expanded our counseling master’s program to almost 150 students, and added a Center for Family Counseling in Plano and the Oak Lawn area in Dallas. We also are making plans to extend our master’s degree in teaching and learning in collaboration with the Neuhaus Center in West Houston.

“Today, SMU’s Board of Trustees approved a bachelor’s degree in Applied Physiology and Sport Management and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, ” added Chard. “With this momentum, it is easy to envision how SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development will become a growing and significant presence in the lives of students and faculty, and the communities we serve. ”

In addition to $10 million in support for the new building, the Simmons’ gift established 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 provides a minimum of 10 graduate fellowships for students in the School’s master’s and Ph.D. programs. The remaining $5 million created the Leon Simmons Endowed Deanship and Faculty Recruitment Fund.

“I grew up in a home that valued education,” Harold Simmons said when the gift was announced. “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. 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 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.

The Simmons’ gift counts toward SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, seeking $750 million to support student scholarships, faculty and academic programs and the campus experience.

A private university located in the heart of Dallas, SMU is building on the vision of its founders, who imagined a distinguished center for learning emerging from the spirit of the city. Today, nearly 11,000 students benefit from the national opportunities and international reach afforded by the quality of  SMU’s seven degree-granting schools.

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