Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Community College Provost Made It the Long, Hard Way

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Community College Provost Made It the Long, Hard Way

Article excerpt

The 1960s were a turbulent time to get a college education.

Students were staging sit-ins and demonstrations for equal

rights, which sometimes escalated into riots on campuses and in

cities across the nation.

Money for tuition presented another obstacle for young William

Simmons, who in 1960, was in his senior year at Allen University

in Columbia, S.C., working on his bachelor's degree in

elementary education.

Now with a doctorate in sociology, Simmons, 59, is the provost

at St. Johns River Community College, following a 21-year career

as director of The Institute of Black Culture at the University

of Florida and a 36-year career in education.

As provost, Simmons will work to get recognition for the

community college as a good school, find out what the business

community is looking for in graduates and gear programs toward

those goals, he said.

Simmons is also working on a partnership with Florida Community

College at Jacksonville on a distance learning program that will

offer college credit on classes that will be televised. Plans

for a new student center on the Orange Park campus, which

Simmons will oversee, are also in the works.

"We hope to break ground in December for the new student

center," he said in a recent interview. "We should be up and

running by the summer. We're [also] working hard with the county

commissioners, School Board and local legislators to get a

performing arts center. It will be the only facility in Clay

County where we can get large groups, and it will be here on our

campus. This is our dream."

Simmons replaces Dayton Roberts, who retired as provost on the

Orange Park campus after a 20-year career with SJRCC, said

college President Robert L. McLendon. The search for a new

provost lasted three months and drew more than 50 applicants

from across the country, he said.

"I identified Dr. Simmons as one of our applicants best suited

for our needs at Orange Park," McLendon said. "I wanted someone

with an earned doctorate, well grounded in an academic

discipline. I also wanted a person who would work in the

community and civic affairs so that the community would identify

the college with that.

"I see the provost as having a responsibility externally

representing the college. . . . We know he will not only be an

asset to the college but also to the community."

Ruth Benjamin, public services librarian on the Palatka campus,

has known Simmons for 12 years and worked with him through the

"He is very dedicated, socially conscious, and very community

minded," she said. "He has a long history of community service

in Gainesville. He was taking students out into the community

and getting them involved. …

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