My name is Jacquelyn Bryant and I am this year’s All Together One Ceremony chairman. I am here today presenting one recognition that stands out in All Together One history, because this one is for an unsung James Madison hero who is not here with us today. Receiving the first posthumous All Together One recognition is Ms. Larue Simmons, a woman who has been a member of the JMU community in many capacities for over two decades.
Ms. Simmons started off her career at our school as a secretary in the Office of Minority Student Life, which later became the Multicultural Awareness and Student Health Department. She then became the officer manager for Multicultural and International Student Services and eventually the administrative assistant to the Associate Vice President of Student Life. In 2005, Ms. Simmons earned a Manager Certification from the Institute of Professional Managers. Less than two years later, she achieved a major life milestone when she received her bachelor’s degree. She strongly advocated for the Adult Degree Program and continued to encourage her classmates and others looking to pursue their degrees even after her own graduation. Ms. Simmons was regarded by her friends as one who looked out most for the interest and betterment of others. Around the time of her college graduation, Larue Simmons reached another life milestone that she was most proud of – she became a grandmother. A few months later, in the early part of February of this year, Ms. Simmons tragically lost her life in an automobile accident.
Author Stephen Covey once wrote that “the relationships that [you] create and nurture will determine the legacy [you] leave.” Not having the pleasure of knowing Ms. Simmons myself, I think it is most appropriate that we remember her by the words of her friends:
Ms. Sue Bauer of University Unions said of Ms. Simmons, “It was my privilege to know Larue Simmons, to work with her and to have had the benefit of her listening and caring attention. So many will greatly miss her presence.”
Dr. Mark Warner, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and University Planning, remarked, “We will miss Larue’s laughter and caring nature. She touched the lives of many students and colleagues. Her rich legacy will live on through the imprint she has made on our hearts.”
Dr. Jim McConnel, Associate Vice President of Student Life and former supervisor of Ms. Simmons, observed “The number of phone calls and e-mails I’ve received from people everywhere – faculty, staff, students – really are testimony to how special she was and how many lives she touched.”
Dr. Zebulun Davenport, currently at University of Northern Kentucky, and former supervisor of Ms. Simmons, remarked “She was more than a co-worker, she was a friend. Larue served as a surrogate mother for hundreds of JMU alumni. Larue, better known as Ms. Larue, was the epitome of what a caring concerned employee should be. She was loved by all.”
Diane Strawbridge of the Student Retention Centennial Scholars Program said of Ms. Simmons, “She had a great sense of humor and she was extremely loyal. She was very intelligent and very patient. I found her to always be positive and her glass was always half full. Always! Above all, she was a dear, dear friend.”
On behalf of Omicron Delta Kappa, James Madison University, and all those she has impacted in her years at our university, I am pleased to posthumously present Ms. Larue Simmons with this year’s All Together One Award. In the absence of her family, Dr. Jim McConnel will be accepting this year’s All Together One Award on behalf of Ms. Larue Simmons.