Changing lives one Tulane degree at a time
Thomas Simmons' graduation photo in the 1953 Jambalaya.
A Tulane University education shaped Janice Simmons’ (NC ’77) life even before she was born. Tulane paved the way for her father, Thomas Simmons (SW ’53), to embark on a successful career in social work.
“Tulane held a special place in his heart,” says Janice Simmons, of North Little Rock, Ark. “His degree enabled him to create a meaningful life and provide for his family.”
To honor her father’s memory, she established the Thomas H. Simmons Memorial Award Endowed Fund, which will help positively change lives for generations. The scholarship will be awarded annually to deserving students at the School of Social Work
A journey begins
Thomas Simmons always felt the single most interesting thing about himself was that he grew up on a farm in Arkansas. He never forgot his roots.
Located in a small community outside of Conway, the Simmons’ farm has now been in the family for 100 years.
During World War II, at just 18 years old, he joined the United States Navy. Returning home as a war veteran, he was determined to pursue higher education. He enrolled in Arkansas State Teachers College, and in biology class met his future wife, Lois Campbell.
In 1951, the newlyweds packed their belongings, and along with their infant son, Michael, drove to New Orleans. They were headed for Tulane University.
A Tulane family tradition
Thomas Simmons and his daughters Jennifer (left) and Janice (center) near the School of Social Work building on the uptown campus in 1984.
Thomas Simmons credited his wife for helping him earn his master’s degree in social work at Tulane. He went on to have a successful career, working as chief of social work for Veterans Administration hospitals in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. He served veterans of wars ranging from the Spanish-American War to the Vietnam War.
“He loved going to work every day knowing he was helping military families,” says Janice Simmons.
He instilled the importance of college in his children at a young age. “He believed that education was the best way to improve one’s life,” says his oldest daughter, Jennifer Simmons (NC ’75), of Houston, Texas.
Hearing affectionate stories about Tulane and New Orleans throughout their lives, it’s no surprise his daughters chose to follow in his footsteps. In 1975, Jennifer graduated from Newcomb College with a degree in art history and two years later Janice earned a degree in international relations.
The power of a planned gift
Janice Simmons established the endowed fund in 2011 and sought ways to maximize her personal gift’s impact. She secured matching funds from Bank of America, her employer of 20 years, under the Bank of America Charitable Foundation Matching Gifts program, and worked with the Office of Gift Planning
at Tulane University to focus the direction of her giving and make it more meaningful, she says.
“My father felt that Tulane was one of the best decisions he ever made,” she says. “I know this scholarship award would make him very proud.”
Erika Herran is a writer in the Office of Development Communications.