Stewarding endowed gifts to Baylor is more than a job to Will Simmons. It's a chance to perpetuate the caring community that makes Baylor special. As the director of endowment stewardship programs, Simmons connects committed donors with the students who benefit from their support. Beyond drafting and administering gift agreements, Simmons says the role affords insights into the myriad ways generosity fuels opportunity at Baylor-a vantage point he values.
"At end of day, my job is about saying thank you-Baylor has a ton of incredibly generous donors and basically the University is able to do what it does because of their support- and to convey to them the tremendous impact they're making...," Simmons said.
Simmons is no stranger to Baylor's caring community. Through Baylor's Honors Program, he earned an undergraduate degree in political science with a minor in philosophy. The experience shaped his heart for Baylor, an affinity modeled by his grandfather, Dick Baker (BA '50), who founded the Baylor Religious Hour Choir in 1948 and co-wrote the Baylor Fight Song. Simmons met his future wife at Baylor, on the first day of Welcome Week during their freshman year.
"I had such a great experience and have such affection for the faculty [in Baylor's political science department]," Simmons said. "It's a wonderful program and really a formative time…that translated really well to law school, especially because my focus in law school was constitutional law and I did my third year seminar in religious liberty law."
Simmons chose the University of Houston for law school and his time there benefited from his undergraduate education and also provided perspective on it, deepening his appreciation of his Baylor experience.
"The University of Houston Law Center was a state school and a little bit larger, with a state school feel, and so helped me contextualize the unique thing I had at Baylor," Simmons said. "It was not negative but enlightening in terms of how special Baylor is."
He returned to Baylor in 2013 to serve as assistant director of the Endowed Scholarship program and eighteen months later became director of the program, succeeding Bill Dube.
"I can't say enough good things about Bill…," Simmons said. "He was the first director of the program, established in 1997. But he was looking for an assistant director he could show the ropes to and transition…"
Simmons' legal knowledge and strategic implementation of automated systems help advance the work of his team. But what shines through-to donors, students and colleagues-is Simmons' deep esteem for the Baylor Family.
"When somebody gives to an endowment, they're establishing a permanent legacy that will outlive all of us…," Simmons said. "That's a tremendously special monument to a person's generosity, so we just try to make donors feel good about it."
Central to that effort is the gathering of student success stories that inform communication with donors. The student letter-writing campaign overseen by Simmons annually yields some 3000 thank you letters, reaching every endowed scholarship donor who is accessible. The students' compelling stories bring full circle the intent of each donor.
"Somebody goes out there and is successful and does well and has this love for Baylor or for Christian education and for students, and they want to give back," Simmons said. "And then on the flipside, because we're kind of uniquely positioned here with the letters, we also get to see - face to face - students who come through and have those experiences."
Simmons notes that the letters also tend to reveal how the campus community blesses students, especially during times of difficulty. He believes that sense of connection to a caring culture further validates the generosity that paved their way to Baylor and underscores the character of the student body. Such insight reflects an appreciation for Baylor's Christian commitment that inspires and imbues his many contributions toward its bright future.
"…all the student stories are so good just because we have so many good kids. Maybe that's a thing that happens everywhere, but I'd like to believe that Baylor attracts students who have something special as a calling about themselves. I hope that the work that we're doing helps make it possible for them to get through school and pursue those callings."