Advancing Education: Simmons Gift Endows School
Commemorating the endowment of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development were (from left) Dean David Chard, SMU Board of Trustees Chair Carl Sewell, President R. Gerald Turner, Annette and Harold Simmons and Provost Paul Ludden.
A drugstore lunch counter across campus on Hillcrest used to be a popular gathering spot for students to enjoy burgers, shakes and camaraderie. In the Sixties, the store’s new owner – Harold Simmons – often flipped burgers himself when short on staff. Then a fledgling businessman in his late twenties, Simmons went on to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs and investors in Texas history.
As an SMU donor through the years, Simmons has given back to the campus community that helped him get started in business. Now, he and his wife, Annette, have provided one of the largest gifts in SMU history – $20 million. The gift will endow the newly named Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, and provide lead funding for a building to house the School.
When Harold Simmons was growing up in Golden, Texas, education was a common topic of family discussions – his mother was a teacher and his father a school superintendent.
The parents of Annette Caldwell Simons (’57) did not attend college, so they were determined to provide that advantage for their daughter. "I am forever grateful that they sacrificed so that I could come to the best," she says. She majored in elementary education at SMU and became a teacher.
Annette Simmons received a crystal “apple for the teacher” from Education Dean David Chard and SMU President R. Gerald Turner.
Both Harold and Annette Caldwell Simmons were mindful of their family backgrounds as they considered making a gift to SMU that would express the educational values they shared. "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," Harold Simmons says. "I am pleased to support and name this innovative school in honor of Annette. It will represent our shared commitment to support teachers like the ones who made a difference in our own lives."
In addition to preparation for teacher certification, the School of Education and Human Development offers graduate-level and specialized programs to develop advanced skills for educators and strong research programs on how students learn. Specialized programs include those in literacy training, bilingual education, English as a second language, gifted student education, and learning therapy, along with those for master educators to enhance teaching skills in science, technology, reading and mathematics. The School 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.
Annette and Harold Simmons
In the area of human development, the School offers Master’s degrees in counseling, dispute resolution and liberal studies, along with wellness courses and enrichment classes.
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. His University Pharmacy, which he purchased with borrowed money, grew into a chain of 100 drugstores across Texas. In 1973 Simmons sold the stores to Jack Eckerd and launched his career as an investor.
Harold and Annette Simmons have been active in the life of SMU. He is a former member of the executive boards of 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.
Among numerous SMU activities, Annette Simmons served on the board of the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series and has participated in the Women’s Investment Series and Godbey Lecture Series, among others. As a civic leader, she has served on the boards of numerous organizations and earned several awards. Recently the Dallas YWCA named her one of 100 women who have made a lasting impact on Dallas. Frequent donors to area medical institutions, Harold and Annette Simmons received the Southwestern Medical Foundation’s Charles Cameron Sprague Community Service Award and the Annette G. Strauss Humanitarian Award.