Oct 27, 2020
How is a melting chocolate bunny related to a young elephant’s efforts to improve his father’s bad mood? What do human and canine friends Duggy and Jam have in common with a bowl of oatmeal? These interesting characters inhabit the pages of children’s books written by creative Florida Southern alumni. Although the four authors featured here have pursued varied career paths — as a teacher, an administrator, a lawyer, and an artist — they are distinguishing themselves in the field of juvenile literature, as well.
In all her professional and creative endeavors, FSC Trustee Evett L. Simmons ’79 has sought to promote multiculturalism, minority leadership, and youth development.
After graduating from FSC, Mercer University School of Law in Macon, Ga., and Suffolk University in Boston, Simmons started her career as a lawyer. In 1990, she opened her own firm, which grew into one of the largest minority-owned, woman-owned law firms in Florida.
Writing was an outlet for Simmons during her adolescence, and in writing her own children’s books, she hopes to minister to those facing the challenges of childhood. A Special Bowl of Oatmeal and The Sunday Before Christmas explore the gifts of family, faith, hope, and love.
Much of her community service is focused on youth and youth programs. For example, after being elected as 58th president of the National Bar Association, Simmons established the Crump Law Camp to give high school students the experience of becoming a law student. She also has been active on the diversity committees of the American Bar Association. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Florida Southern, and chairs the college’s Diversity Task Force.
In 2013, Florida Southern named the Multicultural Center for Simmons in recognition of her accomplishments and philanthropy. Her current firm, E. L. Simmons Law, PLLC, is located in Port St. Lucie.
What begin for FSC alumnus, L. Robert Dillon ’69 as a family story ultimately became a book for all children to enjoy.
Dillon’s daughter Ashleigh was introduced to Randy, a melting chocolate Easter bunny, more than 40 years before the book’s publication.
Randy, the Chocolate Easter Bunny, sat untouched on a bookshelf for years. It was not until his niece found the story that Dillon decided to bring his bunny’s tale to a larger audience.
“The reader encounters messages of friendship, imagination, problem-solving, and love,” Dillon says.
Following his graduation from FSC and Florida Atlantic University, Dillon worked as a teacher, coach, and administrator for Broward County, and as an employee of Duke Power and Duke Energy. He also founded Kaleidoscopeconsulting services, a subsidiary of Duke.
Retired and living in North Carolina with his wife, Shelia, Dillon now can read Randy’s story to his six grandchildren.
For one prolific author and illustrator with ties to FSC, life has been nothing short of an adventure.
At Florida Southern, Fred Koehler ’01 was the yearbook editor and wrote for the student newspaper, The Southern — and, he said, he would “roller skate on top of the esplanades when the guards weren’t looking.”
After graduating with a degree in graphic design, Koehler joined the Peace Corps and served in West Africa for two years. Upon his return, he settled down in Lakeland, started a family, and opened TFG studio, which helps companies tell their stories. Koehler also has worked as an illustrator for Penguin Random House and Boyds Mills Press.
His children’s books How to Cheer Up Dad and Super Jumbo feature his writing in addition to his illustrations. In Garbage Island, a fall 2018 release, “a mouse and a shrew, lost at sea, try to navigate to their home in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” he says. “Braving multiple dangers, they discover they have more in common than they could ever have imagined.”
Through his illustrations and writing, Koehler invites children into the great adventure that is reading.
“I am thankful for all I learned at Florida Southern College,” he says.
After graduating from FSC with a degree in business administration, Antionette Nixon Wilcox ’76 went on to earn her master’s and doctorate. She worked for 35 years as a teacher with Polk County Public Schools, and was selected as the Polk County Public Schools Teacher of the Year for 2003. She also has served as an Education Ambassador through the United Nations.
Her passion for teaching, and for connecting with local and global communities, has earned Wilcox numerous awards.
Recently, she authored Duggy and Jam, a book to teach children their first 100 reading words. The book, volume one in her planned Duggy and the Critters series, is meant to aid children in their development and to cultivate a future generation of readers.
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