Dr. James M. Simmons, Lamar's president, has led the university into a new era of dynamic growth. Momentum has been the watchword of Simmons' administration, a decade in which enrollment increased 64 percent to total 14,054 in the spring of 2010 -- the largest in Lamar's 86-year history -- while graduate enrollment increased more than 400 percent.
In spring of 2008, the university launched its first comprehensive campaign, with the ambitious goal of $100 million. By spring of 2010, the campaign had raised more than $69 million. Impact of the campaign is far reaching -- to include endowments for three named academic departments, gifts to support revival of the Cardinals' football tradition, establishment of a major student fellowship program and substantial growth in scholarship funds.
Simmons also has implemented a master plan to enhance the campus through landscaping and buildings, most notably the five-phase Cardinal Village residence halls, which now accommodate more than 2,500 students. The Dining Hall, which opened in spring of 2006, and the Sheila Umphrey Recreational Sports Center, dedicated in spring of 2007, further contributed to campus life. Renovations of several major academic buildings have been completed, are underway or are in planning phases.
Lamar has also seen major enhancements to its athletic facilities, with the crown jewel being the renovation of Provost Umphrey Stadium and the construction of a new athletic complex. Vincent-Beck Stadium and McDonald Gym have enjoyed major upgrades, and the LU Soccer Complex opened in 2009.
Even in the wake of two major storms -- Hurricanes Ike in 2008 and Rita in 2005 -- Simmons and his team kept classes and graduation on schedule, restoring the campus after substantial damage.
Simmons took office as president on Sept. 1, 1999, bringing a wealth of perspective to the position. A 40-year Lamar veteran, he previously served as dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication and as interim executive director of university advancement. He began his Lamar career in 1970 as an instructor and director of the marching band. He quickly rose through the ranks, serving as director of bands and as chair of the music department.
Simmons is also a leader in community service, having garnered dozens of awards and accolades. He has attracted acclaim as an orchestra leader and as a performer on clarinet, saxophone and piano. Because of his leadership role, those pursuits have taken a back seat, but he often says music is his first love, and he continues to grace the stage.
Simmons is known as an administrator with a strong sense of direction and a keen ability to attract and cultivate talented faculty -- who, he stresses, are professionls who teach rather than professional teachers. His innovative approaches to the pursuit of academic excellence and his winning rapport with students, faculty, staff and the community are defining qualities.
In April of 2009, Simmons received the Chief Executive Leadership Award from District 4 of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), which includes Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Mexico.