‘Standing Ovation’ celebrates Susan and Jimmy Simmons
It’s a “Standing Ovation” for a bravura performance.
When alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of Lamar University pack the Montagne Center Saturday, March 2, they will be extending applause and appreciation for Lamar University President Jimmy Simmons and First Lady Susan Simmons, who have brought a new era – and a new attitude – to the university.
As Lamar prepares to commemorate its 90th anniversary this year, the “Standing Ovation” will be the opportunity to publicly recognize the couple for their leadership roles in the growth and success of the university. Dr. Simmons is returning to the faculty this year after more than 14 years of service as president and 44 years with the university.
“This is a celebration of the success of Jimmy Simmons’ presidency and also an appreciation for the 44 years he’s given to Lamar, with Susan being a very essential part of that,” said Camille Mouton, vice president for university advancement.
“Dr. Simmons has been not only a wonderful leader of the university – an entrepreneurial leader, a visionary leader – but he has also been a great mentor to everyone who works for him and with him – not just the students he has taught and directed, but faculty, staff and administrators. He is a true consensus-builder,” Mouton said. “He believes in being a team player, and that is one of the main reasons he has been such a successful president. Because of his experience as a businessman, he has also run the university as a business, which is another of the many reasons for his success.”
“A Standing Ovation for Jimmy and Susan Simmons” will begin with the Lady Cardinals’ basketball game at 4 p.m. and continue with the Cardinals’ game at 6 p.m., special presentations during halftime of the men’s game and a reception on the arena floor afterward that will give guests an opportunity to personally thank the couple.
“While Dr. Simmons has been our president, we have had the opportunity to engage many more alumni and friends of this university than ever before in our history,” Mouton said. “We planned this event to give our community of alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends an opportunity to show their appreciation to Jimmy and Susan for how far they have brought this university forward during their tenure.”
Susan and Jimmy Simmons have shared the spotlight for more than four decades, orchestrating a bright future for the university while contributing their time, talents and spirit of excellence to Southeast Texas and achieving professional success in the arts, education and business.
“Jimmy Simmons has been an outstanding educational and cultural icon for the community, and Susan has been there right along with him,” said their lifelong friend Ellen Rienstra, president of the Lamar University Alumni Advisory Board. “I knew he was going to be wonderful. I just didn’t know how wonderful. It is astounding what he and Susan have done.
“I have known both of them for nearly all of my life – since we all were in high school,” said Rienstra, a violinist who has performed with Simmons over the years. “He was an outstanding musician then and has consistently maintained his music, which is impressive because of everything else he has had to do.”
Simmons is admired as a band director, musician, educator and mentor, while Susan is a community leader who has achieved excellence as a Realtor, teacher and business owner. They are known for their accessibility to students – who both say will be their greatest legacy.
“I can’t say enough about what Jimmy and Susan have done over the last several years,” said Joe Domino, president of the Lamar University Foundation. “He has been at Lamar for a very long time, and his term as president has made a tremendous difference to the community. When Jimmy became president, we were very fortunate to have Susan as a part of the team. The two of them together have made Lamar something the entire community is proud of. The transformation under their leadership has been remarkable.”
Mouton agreed. “One of the things he has done during his presidency to help Southeast Texans realize what an asset Lamar is to this region,” she said. “He has brought Lamar to the forefront – not only in education but in economic development. And the fact that enrollment has doubled during his tenure is just amazing.”
The atmosphere at the “Standing Ovation” will be festive, with banners, signs and balloons adorning the concourse level, where a gigantic timeline of milestones will chronicle the couple’s lives and contributions. Students will don “Thank you, Dr. Simmons” T-shirts, a slide presentation will capture Lamar and personal highlights, and Simmons will guest-conduct the Pep Band during the games.
“He and Susan, together, have, literally and figuratively, transformed this institution and impacted our entire region,” said Juan Zabala, associate vice president for university advancement. “There are so many people who have been influenced by them over the years, and this provides the opportunity to celebrate Dr. and Mrs. Simmons.”
Several officials of The Texas State University System will participate in the halftime ceremony, including Chancellor Brian McCall, joined by Donna Williams of Arlington, chair of the TSUS board of regents, and regents Charlie Amato of San Antonio; Trisha Pollard of Bellaire and local regents David Montagne of Beaumont and Bill Scott of Nederland. Rienstra and Domino will make a special presentation. Alumni from as far away as California, as well as Dallas, Houston, Austin, Baton Rouge and points in between will join in the celebration.
“Jimmy and Susan have helped us to engage alumni and friends from all over the United States. And Susan has this campus looking so much better than it did 14 years ago that it is a true pleasure to be able to show it off to visitors,” Mouton said.
This is a celebration of the Simmons presidency, not a retirement party, Mouton stressed. “We wanted to do something fun and at a venue that would allow as many people as possible to attend. We didn’t want an event that would limit the crowd. Everyone’s invited.”
In Domino’s view, the event “will let Jimmy and Susan see how much the community appreciates what they have done.”
“There is nothing we could do that would be enough for them, so this is the very least we could do, and I think it’s going to be a wonderful day of celebration,” Rienstra said. “My heart is full, and it is just going to burst that day. I am so pleased to be a part of it.”
Guests are being asked to wear rubber-soled shoes to the post-game reception on the arena floor. Admission will be by season tickets or single-game tickets for March 2 only, available for $1 on a first-come, first-served basis at LamarCardinals.com or (409) 880-1715. The tickets are also available at Golden Triangle locations of Rao’s Bakery & Coffee Café.