Ten Years of the Evett L. Simmons ’79 Center for Multicultural Appreciation

Feb 8, 2023

by FSC Staff

During a joyous Homecoming 2013, the Evett L. Simmons '79 Center for Multicultural Appreciation at Florida Southern College was formally announced.

The celebration, held in the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, featured gospel hymns, one of Ms. Simmons' poems, and an interpretive dance, among other presentations.

The goal was that the center would be a place for underrepresented students to express their cultures.

"This will be a focal point for students of different cultures,” Simmons said at the dedication. “We taught (students) the importance of unity. This will give them self-confidence that they are just as good as anybody else.”


Evett L. Simmons ’79, Esq.

Evett L. Simmons '79

A member of the FSC Board of Trustees, she chairs the Board’s Diversity Task Force. An attorney recognized nationally for her advocacy for diversity, Ms. Simmons gave a generous donation to name the center, and offer a place for various underrepresented groups on campus to gather, and encourage awareness of diversity at FSC.

Ms. Simmons earned her B.A. in English from Florida Southern College and received her J.D. from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University in 1982. A past president of the National Bar Association, Simmons was also a member of the Florida Bar Board of Governors and the State of Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. She is also the author of a series of children’s books featuring the character Professor Bunny Wise. She received the Outstanding Alumni Achievement award from FSC in 2001.


Mrs. Brenda Lewis

Brenda's Place sign

Brenda Lewis, who was already overseeing underrepresented and international student success on campus, was tapped to manage the Simmons Center on a daily basis. Originally hired by former College President Thomas Reuschling in 1994, Lewis quickly became the support network for dozens of students of color, and those from around the world.

“I look at all of these students as my family,” Lewis proudly boasted, upon her retirement from the College in 2021.

Lewis’ goal had always been to meet students as freshmen, help guide them through the college process, and see them graduate. Even after graduation, many would stop by to see her when they returned to Lakeland, with some even staying overnight in her home.

“We have been through so much with these students, and those bonds continue well after they graduate,” Lewis said. “I go to weddings, we celebrate births. We have really become family with each other.”


The Simmons Center Today

Simmons Center building

The Evett L. Simmons ’79 Center for Multicultural Appreciation provides faculty, staff, and students with programming that promotes multiculturalism, social justice, and emphasizes the importance of inclusion. Our international student population adds to the dynamic of multiple cultures and identities within the FSC Community. By providing educational opportunities through cultural awareness events and sensitivity trainings, the Simmons Center is a place for students to come together, celebrate their unique heritages, and ultimately create a unified community that values all cultures.

The Simmons Center staff, currently under the direction of Thomas A. Range, Assistant Dean of Student Engagement, contributes to the development of all Florida Southern College students by promoting diversity and adhering to the tenants of The Cornerstone.

Home to the International Student Association, Black Student Union and the Multicultural Student Council, the stated goals of the Simmons Center include collaborating with individuals, groups, academic affairs and other student development units to offer initiatives that connect people through community service, social engagement, cultural celebration and shared understanding; and to be branded as a vital resource for student development and success as it relates to campus engagement and leadership development.


You can follow The Simmons Center on Instagram at @fscsmc