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LU to confer 1167 degrees, Bart Simmons speaker

simmonsLamar University is scheduled to confer 1167 degrees at fall commencement Saturday, December 14, in the Montagne Center.  LU alumnus, Bart Simmons, will be the keynote speaker.  The ceremonies will begin at 9:30 a.m. for the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business and Engineering and at 1:30 p.m. for the Colleges of Education and Human Development and Fine Arts and Communication.

Graduates hail from 18 countries, 21 states outside Texas and 242 cities and towns in Texas. Lamar is scheduled to award the 1167 degrees to 1157 graduation candidates – 21 for doctorates; 617 for master’s degrees and 529 for bachelor’s degrees.  Doctorates include 14 in educational leadership, one doctor of audiology, four doctors of engineering and two doctor of education in deaf studies and deaf education.

Seven students earned two bachelor’s degrees; two earned both a Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Science in accounting and another student earned a Master of Science in accounting and Master of Business Administration.  The master’s candidates include 503 students who earned degrees in education as part of Lamar’s online education program.

As Lamar University celebrates its 90th year, LU alumnus and entrepreneur, Jay Barton “Bart” Simmons will deliver the commencement address.  A visionary business leader, Simmons graduated magna cum laude from Lamar University while lettering three years in football.  He served as president of the student government association and was a member of the Students for Free Enterprise.  He credits his time at Lamar with sparking a life-long interest in economics and resource management.    

After 50 years of strict price controls and regulation, the U.S. government deregulated the natural gas industry in 1985 creating many opportunities.  Armed with a bachelor of business administration degree in finance and a master of business administration degree from Lamar University, awarded in 1978 and 1979 respectively, Simmons, along with his petroleum industry work experience, wrote a business plan for a start-up company and, in 1992, founded his own business.  Today, the privately held Tristar Companies, co-founded by Simmons, do business in the western half of the United States and have revenues of $120 million a year. 

In 2002, the Texas electricity market went through similar deregulation. This provided Simmons the opportunity to use his entrepreneurial skills in the mechanics of moving from a regulated world to a free market enterprise.  As CEO of Texas Power, he led the company in navigating the complexities of the electric grid while gaining statewide recognition in customer satisfaction and performance.

His privately held BESS Investments Company, founded in 2003, provides grass-fed all natural beef to the market through effective ranch operations and modern management processes.  The investment firm’s other portfolio assets are geared to agricultural companies focusing on healthy living, innovation and technology. 

He is a strong believer in giving back to his community and served on the Board of Directors of Wesley Rankin Community Center and as chairman of the board of Stewards of Lovers Lane United Methodist Church.  He and wife, Martye Sculley Simmons, (accounting, 1978) funded the Vernon Glass Field of Champions Practice Field and the John Payton Academic Success Center at Lamar.  They also funded the Patricia and George Sculley Scholarship in Business and the Martye and Bart Simmons Endowment in Business. 

Simmons stays connected to Lamar as a member of the Board of Advisors to the College of Business and as a Trustee of the Lamar University Foundation.  He was inducted into the College of Business Hall of Fame in 2013 and the university honored Simmons in 2008 as a distinguished alumnus. 

President Kenneth Evans will present Plummer Awards, recognizing the top academic graduates. Students graduating summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude with bachelor’s degrees will be recognized as they accept their diplomas. Steve Doblin, provost and vice president for academic affairs, will introduce Bart Simmons as speaker and certify degree candidates.

The ceremony will begin as Barbara Hernandez, professor of health and kinesiology and president of the Faculty Senate, leads the academic processional. Paul Hemenway, professor of communication, and Victoria Price, professor of modern languages, will present the graduates for the ceremony.

The Lamar Wind Ensemble, conducted by Scott Deppe, director of bands, will perform the processional, recessional and musical prelude. Noel Turner, instructor of voice, will lead in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Lamar Alma Mater