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It was not a great first date.

Sheila, a high school senior in Huntsville, Texas, had already canceled a date for the evening to work on a project when her best friend called. Her Aggie boyfriend was in town with his roommate. Wouldn’t she please come along for a date? She grudgingly agreed to meet at the state park, one of the only hangout spots around.

Sheila Simmons is a dedicated supporter of Texas A&M University and is passionate about enhancing opportunities for students.

That’s where she first met Al Simmons ’64, her date for the evening, who suggested they stroll along the pines by the lake. It might have been romantic, except that Sheila tripped over a small barbecue pit in the dark. Al helped her hobble back to the lodge, her white cashmere skirt covered in soot, blood streaming from both knees. At the door, they bumped into the date she had canceled on. Mortified, she spent the rest of the evening hiding in the ladies’ room.

Sheila was determined to apologize for the disastrous date and called Al’s dorm the next time she was in College Station. Unfortunately, the corpsman who answered the phone refused to pass on messages unless it was from a relative. “Well, I’m his cousin,” she explained sweetly. “I’m just in town for the day, and I’d really like to see him.”

Though there were no barbecue pits on their second date, sparks flew. Their romance lasted more than 60 years until Al’s passing in 2022. “Sometimes, we wonder how it all happened,” said Sheila with a smile, reflecting on their life together full of travel, adventures, rescue dogs, classic cars, careers, celebrity encounters, Formula One racing, skiing and Aggie football. “We were very fortunate.”

Building a Life Together

A gifted architect, Al knew the importance of a solid foundation. His early life was marked by hardship, as his family’s farm went bust and both of his parents passed away young. He attended Texas A&M University through loans and jobs, enrolling part time to make ends meet. The four-year degree took six years due to finances, but he was undeterred. These experiences, along with serving on the Corps of Cadets’ staff with Squadron 5, built him into a man of diligence and dependability.

“Texas A&M gave him a foundation, while the Corps gave him the strength and determination to make something of himself,” Sheila said. The couple wed before their last semester of college, and Sheila became one of the first women to attend classes at Texas A&M.

Al and Sheila excelled in their respective careers and remained devoted to Texas A&M University throughout their lives.

Al fulfilled his Air Force commitment starting with an assignment at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin after graduation. He put his degree to use as part of the elite RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers) group, reinforcing structures near the border in South Korea against attack. After his military service, Al rejoined his bride in Austin, where Sheila was building a distinguished career in management in The University of Texas System, where she was the assistant to four system chancellors. Later, she worked as executive assistant to Texas Gov. Mark White and as chief of staff for Sen. Jim Turner.

Al earned a master’s degree in community and regional planning at The University of Texas and eventually started his own architecture firm, GSC Architects, where he was responsible for much of the tech industry footprint that defines Austin today. His professional achievements earned him an Outstanding Alumnus Award from the School of Architecture in 2000.

Though they had great experiences with the university system in Austin, Sheila said they “were both devoted to Texas A&M.” She currently serves on the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Development Council while Al served on the Dean’s Council for the School of Architecture, bringing them to Aggieland often.

Ward Wells, professor emeritus of the School of Architecture, and his wife, Diane, were professional contacts and good friends of the Simmonses. Wells described Al as “a consummate professional” and Sheila as “one of the most passionate people I know.” In his words, “The main thing about them was their constant commitment to students and the university.”

Al and Sheila chose to leave a lasting legacy by dedicating most of their estate to Texas A&M University, ensuring their life's accomplishments benefit future students.

Leaving a Legacy

When Al developed Alzheimer’s, the couple knew it was time to ensure the legacy they had built together would last, and they agreed that most of their estate should go to the university that meant so much to them. The gift they planned in their will focuses on a variety of student enrichment opportunities.

The commitment reflects their varied passions, devotion to Aggieland and, most meaningfully, a full life well lived. “You have to make decisions about the things that are of lasting benefit to others,” Sheila said. “We wanted the rewards of our life and what we accomplished to provide for students.”

Customizing an estate gift for Texas A&M University can be a fulfilling experience that reflects your life and personal passions. Get started by downloading our free estate planning kit below or contact Kevin Westerman 11, assistant vice president for planned giving, at the bottom of this page.

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  • Kevin Westerman '11

  • Assistant Vice President for Planned Giving
  • Office of Planned Giving
  • Call: 979.314.8799

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