City unveils signs renaming street to honor Lamar president

Mayor Becky Ames with Susan and Jimmy Simmons

Jimmy Simmons Boulevard officially became part of the Lamar University landscape Friday, March 1, 2013, with the unveiling of street signs and a tribute to Simmons and his wife, Susan, in the historic McDonald Gym.

The Pep Band and national-champion Cheerleading Team added Cardinal Spirit to the occasion, while two rows of Simmons children and grandchildren – including three new grandchildren in strollers – brought proud introductions from the stage. 

Lamar joined the city of Beaumont to commemorate the renaming of University Drive from East Cardinal Drive to East Lavaca Sreet, with Lamar students, alumni, faculty, staff and other friends of Lamar in attendance. Several alumni traveled from out of state. City Council unanimously approved the measure, which honors Simmons’ accomplishments during his tenure as president of Lamar.

“This is another great day in Beaumont,” Mayor Becky Ames said in greeting the crowd.

“I am so honored to come before you today to pay tribute to the man and the woman behind the man – Jimmy and Susan Simmons.

“When I first was elected to council in 1994, our relationship with Lamar University was nothing like it is now, and I’d like to say most of that is because of your efforts. Thank you so much. I can’t remember a time when Lamar looked like this, acted like this and walked the walk that we wanted to happen in our city.”

Simmons immediately credited Susan as a partner in his presidential accomplishments. “I know this is Jimmy Simmons Boulevard, but understand that right beside Jimmy should be Susan Simmons Boulevard. You will never know what a dynamic impact she has had on the university, not for 14 years but for 43 years. Susan, I appreciate all you have done for me, our family and this university. You are the best.”

Among the guests were several grandchildren, including the most recent: twins Emma and Wells, born Christmas Day to son Matt and his wife, Becki, and Reed, born Jan. 25 to son Mike and his wife, Nikki. Also attending were their daughter, Jennifer Simmons Lehane, with two of her children, Rachel and Thomas; Susan’s father, Rudy Williams, and his wife, Helen; and Jimmy’s sister, Susan Howlett. Granddaughters Lily and Madeleine completed the group.

“It is very unusual for a president to have grown up, gone to high school and then come back to teach at the university in his hometown – and stay in that community for the rest of his life,” Simmons said. “This is extremely satisfying to me.

“All these wonderful awards and accolades come to us for the work we’ve done for this university, but I want to tell all the faculty, staff and students here: Thank you so much for all you do for this university.

“Thank you so much for being here,” Simmons told well-wishers. “This is a very special occasion for Susan and me and for our family.”

Joe Domino, president of the Lamar University Foundation, introduced the mayor, saying,  “No one can deny the relationship that Dr. Simmons has built with the community. There is no better way to honor Dr. Simmons.”

Camille Mouton, vice president for university advancement presided at the ceremony. “It is so gratifying to see so many people coming together to honor Jimmy and Susan for all they have done, not only for Lamar University but for Southeast Texas,” Mouton said.

Members of the Lamar Ambassadors unveiled one of the “Jimmy Simmons Boulevard” signs, covering was removed from street signs nearby. Ames read the proclamation she issued at the Beaumont City Council meeting Tuesday, declaring Saturday, March 2, as Susan and Jimmy Simmons Day in Beaumont.  That day coincides with “A Standing Ovation for Jimmy and Susan Simmons,” scheduled March 2 in the Montagne Center to recognize the couple for their leadership roles in the growth and success of the university.

The “Standing Ovation” 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.