John Simmons bequeathed to the world a compelling model of a life lived to do good by doing well. Raised in Little Compton, Rhode Island, John made his way to Boston to seek his fortune as a helper to his older brother who was already established as a tailor. Working hard and capitalizing on his observation that most of his customers presented predictable measurements, Mr. Simmons created the concept of the men’s off the rack suit. Combining that idea with his industriousness in gaining access to markets expanding with the growth of railroads in the United States, John Simmons became the largest clothing manufacturer in the country by the beginning of the Civil War. He ultimately sold his business, reinvested in real estate, and created an estate of significant wealth which in his will he directed be used “...to found and endow an institution...best calculated to enable the scholars to achieve an independent livelihood.” And so, Simmons College came to be.
As the eighth president of Simmons College, I remind myself everyday of my obligation to steward the incredible investment John Simmons made with his worldly goods. His commitment to women’s economic well being, so forward thinking in his time, is a remarkable inspiration as I consider the financial and strategic issues facing Simmons College today. And, his life and work provide compelling lessons for sustaining the mission, articulating the continued validity of women’s education, and uncovering new growth opportunities for our programs. Continuously seeking to understand the experience and motivations of our founder has enriched my tenure as president, but my appetite for information has been somewhat stymied by the dearth of available history. With the publication of this book, Denise Pappas has made a dramatic advance in our understanding of this important man. Her work gives rich insights into a mind dedicated to commercial success, improved life circumstances, and using those personal gains to aid others in their own prosperity — doing good by doing well.
President Helen Drinan