from The Bridge: Fall 2010 issueDr. John Simmons '69 is an otolaryngologist in Jasper, Ala. At W&L, by his own admission, he spread himself thin during his first couple of years as a pre-med major. He had to leave the program and change majors, but he still wanted to go to medical school. Along came Professor Henry S. Roberts, then head of the Biology Department. "He mapped out a way for me to get a biology major," said Simmons. The aspiring physician buckled down during the second half of his W&L career and did well, thanks to Roberts and his fellow biology professors Tom Nye and James Starling.
Lined up for commencement in 1969, Simmons had a welcome surprise. "Dr. Roberts came rushing back and found me, told me he was proud of me, and introduced himself to my parents." Fast forward to 2009, when Simmons and his wife, Rene, made a gift to W&L (where daughter Brooks is a junior). They established the Simmons Family Endowment for Biology in Roberts' honor. It provides salary support for biology faculty members and helps meet the Lenfest Challenge. "I had a lot of good professors," says Simmons of Roberts, "but I felt he deserved to have something named for him."