H. Eugene Simmons, known as Gene to family and friends, was born in Orlando, Florida on September 5,1928, to James Thomas Simmons, Sr., and Ruth Thomas Simmons. He received his early education at Princeton Elementary School and graduated from Orlando High School. He earned a BA in Business Administration from Rollins College in 1950, a Master’s in Marketing from Florida State University in 1952, and a PhD in Student Personnel Administration from Florida State University in 1967.
After serving in the Navy from 1954 to 1957, including a stint at the newly formed National Security Agency in Washington, DC, Gene devoted his career to counseling higher education students on career opportunities. He served as a guidance counselor at Florida State and the University of Georgia before moving back to his native Orlando in 1967 to become charter faculty in Counseling at the new Valencia Junior College, (now Valencia College). During Gene’s tenure at Valencia, he served as Chair of the Counseling Department. He took great pride in the work of Valencia College and the opportunity to help shape the careers of hundreds of young Central Floridians.
Outside of work, Gene had a passion for travel, gardening, art, and music. He was a volunteer docent at the Cornell Art Museum on the campus of his alma mater, Rollins College, and sang for many years in the choir of Park Lake Presbyterian Church where he served as an elder. Gene loved spending time with his family, and his two brothers and sisters-in-law, his niece and two nephews and their families will remember him fondly as their Uncle Gene.
Gene lived out his retirement years fully, with frequent summers in Black Mountain, NC, and trips to visit his many friends. He spent his last years at Westminster Winter Park and passed away after a brief illness on April 5, 2020. When the current pandemic restrictions are eased, Gene’s family looks forward to celebrating his life with a memorial service at Park Lake Presbyterian Church in Orlando.
Gene is preceded in death by his brother Lamar and infant brother William Frederick. Gene is survived by his brother J. Thomas Simmons, Jr. (Marilyn), niece Nancy Ferguson (Dr. Robert), nephews J. Thomas Simmons III (JoAnn) and David Simmons, MD (Rev. Dr. Linda), great nieces and nephews Hayley Abney (Rev. David), Megan Ciserano (Tommy), Patrick Ferguson, Jason Bailey (Sara), Justin Simmons (Dr. Taylor), Mary Ella Simmons, and Eric Simmons, and 9 great-great nieces and nephews.