Simmons becomes first LU president emertitus

Standing Ovation

Lamar University president Dr. James M. “Jimmy” Simmons has become the first president emeritus in Lamar history.

Chancellor Brian McCall made the announcement Saturday night, March 2, during halftime of the Cardinals’ basketball game at “A Standing Ovation for Jimmy and Susan Simmons” in the Montagne Center.

Lamar University is also honoring the Simmonses by renaming the music building after Dr. Simmons and a campus garden after his wife, Susan.

“The TSUS board of regents has voted to name the building – where Simmons began his Lamar career in 1970 – the James M. 'Jimmy’ Simmons Music Building,” McCall said.

“It is most fitting that the building be named in his honor in appreciation of his 43 years of dedicated service to Lamar University,” he said.

Nearly 20 years ago, Lamar began a tradition of planting gardens across the campus for former first ladies.

“Therefore, it is most fitting that the garden behind the Simmons Music Building be named for Susan Williams Simmons, a 1968 graduate of Lamar,” McCall said. “Susan has been instrumental in the physical transformation of the campus and has also been a wonderful Lamar ambassador.”

The president and first lady are being honored “for a job well done,” McCall said. “When he became president 14 years ago, this university was half its size.”  

During Simmons’ presidency, despite hurricanes and other obstacles, the university experienced tremendous growth, physical enhancement and unprecedented academic achievements.

Also during the halftime program, Ellen Rienstra and Joe Domino presented the president and first lady with a portrait of themselves, the work of Lamar alumnus Jason Robichau. Rienstra is president of the Lamar Alumni Advisory Board, and Domino is president of the Lamar University Foundation.

Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends gathered Saturday to celebrate the couple’s leadership roles in the growth and success of the university. Simmons is returning to the faculty this year after more than 14 years of service as president and 43 years with the university.