Lamar University President James Simmons announced Saturday evening before an enthusiastic audience gathered for the Jimmy Simmons and Friends Encore jazz concert in the university’s Montagne Center that it had raised more than $46 million in the two year “silent phase” of its first-ever comprehensive campaign, “a great start” toward a goal of $100 million.

Calling the response to the silent phase of the campaign “an unprecedented beginning,” Lamar University President James Simmons praised the involvement of alumni and friends of the university.
“Our confidence is boosted by the remarkable group of alumni, former students and friends who have embraced this campaign and have stepped forward to lead this historic effort,” Simmons said.  “The membership of the campaign cabinet is an incredibly committed group of men and women, all of whom believe in Lamar University and who have given their time, talents and resources to create a new and even more successful future.” 
That the announcement was made at a concert is trademark Simmons – an accomplished musician on clarinet, piano and saxophone, Simmons has a 38-year career at the university that includes service as band director, music department chair and dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication. Simmons also served as head of the university’s advancement division. In 1998, Simmons was selected to serve in the top post, and, as president, has orchestrated a turn-around that reversed enrollment declines, boosted academic offerings and revamped a neglected campus with new residence halls, dining hall, recreational sports center and renovations of major academic buildings. 
The transformation at Lamar and the esteem in which it is held today is due to Jimmy Simmons and the team he assembled. His legacy will be the most remarkable in Lamar’s history, “ said Elvis Mason of Dallas. He is the honorary chair of the campaign, a 1959 graduate of the university and the retired founder and managing partner of Mason Best Inc.
That turn-around is more than perceptions, evidence of substance and style that make the music-man cum leader unique.  The university’s enrollment growth, from 8,149 in fall 1999 to 10,379 in fall 2007, is remarkable given the damage wrought on the campus and region by Hurricane Rita in 2005. Enrollment this spring was 10,526, a record for LU.
“He really has the ability to draw people together, and that’s an uncommon trait, a real gift to be able to get people energized and working for something,” said Jerry Reese of Beaumont, a member of the class of 1966, retired founder of Bo-Mac Contractors Ltd. and a member of the campaign cabinet.
The university will continue working toward the goal of raising $100 million over the next five to seven years to support faculty, students and programs that will move Lamar University to national prominence in the years ahead, said Camille Mouton, vice president for university advancement.  The campaign emphases include: raising funds for student enrichment through scholarships and other programs; faculty excellence through endowed chairs, professorships and fellowships or by endowing colleges and departments.
The campaign also seeks private investment in several multi-disciplinary programs such as a center for faculty development and research; nursing programs; speech, language and hearing development disorders; and the library.  The comprehensive campaign also includes emphasis on places, including the creation of a new Alumni Center; renovation of the university’s baseball stadium, and renovation of Cardinal Stadium, the anticipated home of the university’s reinstated football program pending board approval.
The largest single gifts to date in the campaign include $5 million from Sheila and Walter Umphrey of Beaumont and $5 million from Karen and Phillip Drayer of Dallas.  Other gifts of $1 million or more include: Judy and George Dishman of Beaumont, Maryann and Don Lyle of LaJolla, Calif., David Beck of Houston, Sheila and Jerry Reese of Beaumont, the children and grandchildren of Ben J. Rogers, and the Beaumont Foundation of America.  The success of the campaign will also rest on the many other gifts already received and anticipated, Mouton said.  “All gifts, no matter the amount, will help move LU toward the goal.”
Of the more than $46 million raised, $22.4 million is earmarked for academic support, $11.4 million is in scholarship endowments, $3.4 million goes toward athletics, $4 million goes toward a variety of other designations, and $5 million was undesignated.
The co-chairs of the campaign are Beaumont mediator Greg Thompson, former president of the Lamar University Foundation, and Mike Aldredge, a ’65 alumnus and retired president and CEO of Puffer Sweiven. Adredge has served as president of both the Lamar University Foundation and the Lamar Alumni Association. 
Of the campaign, Thompson said, “people are starting to come out and say I want to be a part. I want to help. I want to invest. They’re asking how they can help Lamar University move forward. They know that by helping Lamar move forward, they’re going to help Southeast Texas move forward.”
Campaign cabinet members are: David Beck, partner, Beck, Redden & Secrest LLP, Houston; Dr. Tamerla Chavis, neurosurgeon, Beaumont; William Childs, founder and president, retired, Precision Tune, Kerrville; the late Todd Christopher, partner, Crown Team Texas, Beaumont; Will Crenshaw, chairman, The Modern Group, Beaumont; Phillip Drayer, president and CEO, retired, Kalydus Asset Advisors, LP, Dallas; Tyrrell Garth, president, Cheyenne Capital, Beaumont; Michael Grimes, Grimes Energy Co., Houston; Dan Hallmark, regional chairman, retired, Hibernia National Bank, Beaumont; Don Lyle, principal, Technology Management Co., La Jolla, Calif.; Charles Mason, president, Mason Construction Inc., Beaumont; Douglas Matthews, director, external affairs, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston; William Mitchell, vice chairman, retired, Texas Instruments, Dripping Springs; Ray Moore, of counsel, Moore Landry LLP, Beaumont; Pat Parsons, CEO, CommunityBank of Texas, Beaumont; Jordan Reese III, president, retired, Bo-Mac Contractors Ltd., Beaumont; Regina Rogers, attorney, community advocate, Beaumont; William Scott, CEO, Trans-Global Solutions, Inc., Nederland; Dan F. Smith, president, CEO and chairman, retired, Lyondell Chemical Co., Houston; and Roy Steinhagen, CEO, Steinhagen Oil Co., Beaumont.
“It is unprecedented for Lamar to have this caliber of talent leading a university’s first campaign,” Mouton said.
“I admire what Lamar University has accomplished in recent years, and I see respect in the community and region for both Lamar and its leaders,” said Roy Steinhagen, president of the Lamar University Foundation. “It has become the most important institution in Southeast Texas and its vital to our area’s future growth. Lamar’s academic excellence is evident when you look at the graduates coming from its various schools — from engineering to nursing to business. These bright students are choosing to remain in the area and are filling the demand for leadership in our expanding economy.”
“Now, more than ever, we have a remarkable opportunity to strengthen Lamar and to have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of students,” Steinhagen said. “The ‘Investing in the Future’ campaign will create a stronger Lamar University, with a larger and more engaged group of donors who will see it as a sound place to invest their philanthropic dollars.”
“We will work with alumni and friends individually to bring their dream to fruition — creating a scholarship, small or large, that honors a loved one, naming a department, supporting athletics or providing academic and faculty enhancement. One thing they do have in common: each gift always helps our students, now and in the future,” Mouton said.
“There is so much enthusiasm at the university and a real vision for what it can become,” Mouton said.  “We want to be sure everyone has opportunity to participate in Investing in the Future. All gifts are critical to the success of the campaign.”
A member of The Texas State University System, Lamar University has an enrollment of around 10,500 students and offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 100 subject areas, 47 master’s degrees and 9 doctoral degree programs.
For more information about the campaign or the university, visit on the Internet, or call university advancement at (409) 880-8419.