$1 Million Donation for Scholarships, Arts
Harold and Annette Simmons, Westmont’s close Montecito neighbors, surprised the college this spring with a $1 million gift. Half the donation has been designated for student scholarships. The remainder will go toward funding an endowed chair in art that will bolster the program of the soon-to-be-constructed Adams Center for the Visual Arts, which includes a new gallery.
The donation enables Westmont to provide financial aid to highly qualified applicants interested in attending the college. Increasing scholarship assistance for students with need is a top institutional priority. In addition, the gift will enhance the college’s flourishing art program.
“We believe that Westmont College is an asset to our community,” Mr. Simmons said. “This gift is in recognition of the dedication of David Winter to Westmont College and the Montecito community.”
Chancellor David Winter said, “We deeply appreciate Harold and Annette Simmons for their great contributions to so many worthwhile causes. This gift is a wonderful encouragement to the college, as well as to me personally.”
Mr. Simmons, a native Texan who is one of the few self-made American billionaires, is the middle son of rural schoolteachers. After he graduated from UT Austin in 1952 with a master’s degree in economics and a Phi Beta Kappa key, he worked first for an agency of the U.S. government and then for a Dallas-based bank. At age 29, he borrowed money to buy a small drugstore, using his $5,000 savings for a down payment. Within a decade he had built a statewide drugstore chain worth more than $50 million.
He sold the business in 1973 and launched a career as an investor. He has prospered as a brilliant and creative financier and now controls numerous companies, including five corporations listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Highlights of Mr. Simmons’ other generous philanthropic gifts include:
• Numerous significant gifts exceeding $100 million to the UT Southwestern Medical Center, including gifts to the Harold C. Simmons Arthritis Research Center and the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center
• $500,000 to the InterFaith Coalition that provides transitional housing for Dallas homeless parents and children
• $5 million to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Foundation
Mr. Simmons’ total charitable contributions exceed $300 million.