Simmons scholarship will benefit future teachers

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NATCHITOCHES – Family and friends gathered to announce and celebrate the creation of a scholarship that will benefit Northwestern State University students who want to make a impact in their careers by becoming teachers.  The Dr. Lisso and Nadine Smith Simmons Teacher Scholarship was created through an initial donation of $50,000 to the NSU Foundation and will continue the legacy of the couple for whom it is named.

The endowed scholarship will be awarded in the amount of $2,000 per year to an undergraduate from Louisiana with preference for a student from Winn or Grant parishes. To apply, recipients must have a high school GPA of 3.0 or better and must maintain a 3.0 at NSU.  Recipients must be full-time students and demonstrate financial need.

Natchitoches Wood

Simmons was joined by daughters Andrea Cates of Jackson, Tennessee, and Staci Waldvogel of Birmingham, Alabama, and grandchildren Mathis, Tyler and Anna Nadine, as they met with NSU President Chris Maggio.  His children David, Russ and Kahne Simmons joined the gathering via Zoom.  Several NSU administrators and representatives from the NSU Foundation were also present to thank the Simmons family for their generosity.

Simmons shared stories of his background as a first-generation college student, his early education and of meeting his wife at NSU. They were married 56 years before Mrs. Simmons’ passing in 2006.

Simmons’ father had an eighth-grade education and his mother a fourth-grade education. Their hope was that all nine of their children would finish high school, which at that time concluded at 11th grade.  A high school English teacher suggested Simmons consider college. Arriving at NSU in 1939, he received $10 in assistance for fee payment.  Years later he learned that the funds were part of a $300 bequest left to the school by a teacher from Goldonna in order to assist students.

After rising early every morning to milk cows at home, Simmons commuted on a bus from Pollock to Natchitoches for a monthly fee of $10, which his mother paid with egg money.  Commuter students left their lunches on the bus and ate between classes. Later, he worked on the campus dairy, rising at 4 a.m. every morning to milk cows seven days a week, during a time when classes were held Monday-Saturday. He also worked on campus as a plumber’s assistant until he received a draft notice and went into the Naval Air Force, serving on active duty from 1942-46.  As a radar officer with the rank of LT(JG) (Lieutenant, Junior Grade), Simmons served aboard aircraft carriers in the Pacific Theater.

In 1946, he returned home and reenrolled at Northwestern State. There, he met Nadine Smith on her first day of school.  He graduated in 1947 and completed a master’s degree at LSU. They were married four days after she graduated from NSU in 1950.

Mrs. Simmons, a native of Sikes, was a teacher and homemaker.  At the time of her passing, she was a member of First Baptist Church, WMU at First Baptist and the Natchitoches Garden Club. She was active in The Lions Club, Couples Too Sunday School Class and The Association of the Preservation of Historical Natchitoches. In 2000, during her Golden Jubilee 50-year graduation, NSU presented her with the Nth Degree, a special honor bestowed on individuals who go the extra mile in meritorious service to the university and/or community.

Dr. Simmons began his career in education teaching in Natchitoches Parish schools. He served as a principal in Webster Parish before spending 14 years as a professor at Northwestern State. He then spent eight years as Dean of the College of Education at Southeastern Louisiana University. He retired after one year as Dean of the School of Education at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi.  In 2000, he was inducted in NSU’s Gallaspy College of Education and Human Development Hall of Distinguished Educators.

“It’s amazing the things this gentleman has done, a war hero, honored by ROTC, inducted into the Hall of Distinguished Educators,” Maggio said. “He has been a teacher, principal, administrator, professor and dean.  But the thing that is most impressive is his impact on education, which will be perpetual through this scholarship.  NSU still has many first-generation students from rural areas who get through school by working and earning scholarships. This will make an impact for generations.”

“All my life, I have heard that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.  Just like that teacher did for you with that $10, now you have done for others,” said Dr. Kimberly McAlister, dean of the College of Education and Human Development.

Friends can contribute to the Dr. Lisso and Nadine Smith Simmons Scholarship in honor of the couple by visiting www.northwesternstatealumni.com . Donors can click the Give tab and indicate the Dr. Lisso and Nadine Smith Simmons Scholarship in the Specify section.