Biography of President Jay Simmons

Dr. Simmons and Jenne' Simmons

Jay and Jenne’ Simmons

Welcome to Simpson College!

I’m Jay Simmons, the president of Simpson. It’s a new job for me – I started in July 2013 – and I couldn’t be more thrilled or excited to have it.

This is the page where I’m supposed to list my resume and accomplishments, but I wanted to go in a slightly different direction and address you directly.

Many of you who visit the Simpson web site are high school students researching colleges. Or you might be an adult learner who is preparing to take the next step in a career.

You may be asking: Is Simpson College and a liberal arts education right for me?

It’s exactly the sort of question I was asking as a high school senior, wondering what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Back then, I didn’t have a clue what the difference was between a state university and a private, liberal arts college.

I grew up in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a community of 6,000 people, which is part of a larger community that includes four cities with a combined population of more than 100,000. Florence is the largest city. (If you’re from Iowa, think of the Quad Cities.)

Indianola, Iowa, the home of Simpson, has more people (a population of 15,000) than my home town, but it also is part of a much larger community, with the vibrant metropolitan area of Des Moines just a few miles away.

My father, B.A., was an hourly assembly line worker for Ford Motor Company, where he made transmission cases. My mother, JoAnn, raised my younger sister and me and kept the books at our grandfather’s paint store.

Neither of my parents had graduated from college, but they insisted that I go. My grade school teachers repeated the constant refrain that we needed to earn good grades to get into college. That was part of the atmosphere, and the expectation, for students my age.

But where to go? There were, and are, so many choices. Sometimes in life you have to trust your instincts, and that’s what I did.

I haven’t been Simpson’s president long, but something I hear repeatedly from current students and alumni alike is how quickly they fell in love – and that’s the word they use — with the campus the first time they toured it.

They knew Simpson would challenge them academically, but they also sensed that professors would know them by name and understand their hopes and dreams. What a difference it makes to be taught by a professor who will gladly invest the time necessary to make certain students understand a new concept.

You won’t be a number here. You won’t attend lectures taught by teaching assistants in a cavernous hall that could hold the population of Muscle Shoals.

But the value of a college like Simpson goes beyond smaller class sizes and personalized attention. It goes to what we like to refer to as the Simpson Experience.

It’s staggering how many options you have here to grow as a person and to make a difference. From the arts to athletics, from helping tend an organic garden to volunteering with the Religious Life Community, you can find a group of friends who share your interests.

I promise you, you can make a difference here.

I was a student at Birmingham-Southern College, a school very much like Simpson, when I began to understand what college officials meant when they referred to a “liberal arts education.”

What that means, in essence, is that students are introduced to a broad array of courses and experiences that cover the unlimited range of human inquiry. We will help you develop the ability to think deeply and critically.

We offer 82 majors and minors. We want our students to discover what they are most passionate about. You never know what might happen.

I tell high school students that if they have a firm idea of what they want to do after college, wonderful. That’s the best part of what Simpson College is, and we can accommodate you. But if you’re not entirely sure, we can introduce you to areas of study and endeavor that you might want to engage yourself in.

So many of us think we are certain about what we want to major in, then we get to college and take some courses and discover an entirely different subject that fascinates us. A place like Simpson can help you navigate the transition and flourish in the process. We pride ourselves on this.

Something similar happened to me. I started college with an eye toward medical school and soon discovered an interest in political science. Eventually, I realized that what I really wanted to do was to work in education. My two daughters, Samantha and Madison, tease me that I started going to college in 1981 and never left, and it’s pretty much the truth.

I received my master’s degree in political science from the University of Alabama in 1991, and my doctorate in political science from the University of Alabama in 1996.

My career has taken me to different parts of the country and exposed me to different facets of life in education. I worked as assistant to the dean and assistant dean at Birmingham-Southern College; dean of liberal arts at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio; vice president for academic affairs and dean at LaGrange College; and president and associate professor of political science at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

And now at Simpson College.

One of the things I’m proud of at Simpson is our long affiliation with the United Methodist Church. No denomination has a stronger statement about academic freedom than the United Methodist Church, and that’s important to any of us who are serious about the life of the mind in higher education.

The call to service is answered at Simpson. So much of what we espouse as part of the liberal arts and sciences tradition is the connection to a broader humanity, and what our obligations are to one another as members of a community. We are committed to service.

There is so much more I’ve learned about Simpson that I’d like to share with you. Our Evening Weekend & Graduate Programs have been an enormous success for working adults, and offers three campus settings and flexible schedules. Our Engaged Citizen Curriculum is setting the agenda in higher education. Our popular Guaranteed Internship Program is designed to give you a head start toward launching your career.

So I invite you to visit our beautiful campus. My wife, Jenné, and I greatly look forward to meeting you. I would welcome the chance to answer any questions you might have, and so would the faculty and staff. What they say is true – the more you learn about Simpson College, the more you will find to like.

It could change your life.