An Indiana State University alumnus is committed to leaving behind a legacy of school spirit, pride and teamwork.
Michael Simmons,’64, one of the founders of the Sycamore Tricycle Derby, started out as a biology teacher at Indianapolis Arsenal Technical High School before becoming a successful businessman with companies such as IBM, Fidelity Investments, Bank of America and the Bank of Boston. He later formed his own consulting firm and worked with several start-up companies, either as a board member or an advisor. Regardless of his career field, Simmons’ passion for racing and Indiana State always shone through.
“I always liked activities outside the classroom, like Homecoming and trike. It’s fun for students to build spirit and tradition,” the Seymour native said.
Simmons knows about building tradition. In 1963, he convinced university officials to add a trike race as part of Homecoming festivities to keep fellow students from going home for the weekend. Working with Tom (’64) and Debbie (’64) Hulman Bareford, they convinced residence halls and Greek organizations to field teams, secured the tricycles and transformed the Quad into a racetrack, complete with bales of hay to outline the course. Simmons and his co-founders anticipated just a couple of hundred spectators, but the media estimated up to 3,000 people watched the beginning of a tradition, which marked its 50-year anniversary in 2012.
It is the legacy of trike – filled with pride, spirit, tradition and teamwork – that moved Simmons to give more than $2 million to begin a student team activity endowment fund that bears his name.
“The fund will support extracurricular, team-based programs that foster the development of leadership, communication and teamwork,” Simmons said. “All are necessary skills that students need to be successful after graduation, regardless of the field they’re working in.”
Simmons’ reasoning for the gift is simple – too many students are only interested in individual activities or aren’t participating in team and group activities.
“You learn more about human beings in team activities,” Simmons said. “You have to get along, respect different viewpoints, backgrounds and work together.”
“There aren’t many courses you can take in teamwork,” added Simmons, who divides his time between Brownsburg, Ind., and Punta Gorda, Fla. “Just being book smart isn’t enough to make you successful.”
Indiana State students and student organizations will be able to submit funding requests for team projects that are not supported or could not be funded by university, state or federal dollars. Projects that qualify for the funding include annual team competitions against other higher education institutions; a one-time event or participation in a statewide or national activity or strengthening or enhancing university events, such as Homecoming or the trike/tandem races.
“The fund could cover support for student participation such as awards, entry fees and facility improvements,” Simmons, a 1987 Distinguished Alumni Award winner, said.
The activities funded not only benefit students, but the campus as well.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that spirit and participation affects retention,” Simmons said. “This fund will help build on the spirit that is found on campus these days and encourage students to be innovative in the types of campus activities.”
While Simmons provided the seed money for the endowment, he hopes other Indiana State alumni with a similar interests will donate to the fund so students can begin accessing the fund immediately.
“Anyone can donate to support activities that foster a sense of team and develops leadership,” he said. “It’s a way to pay it forward.”
To donate to the Michael Simmons Student Team Activity Endowment, contact the ISU Foundation via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 800-242-1409.
Paula Meyer, ’91, is the media relations coordinator at Indiana State University.