The University of Texas at Brownsville has lost a dear friend and former Development Board member. Neal O. Simmons passed away on Thursday, May 1 surrounded by his loving family.
A humble man who placed high value on people, community and hard work, Neal felt he owed his successful business to the many hardworking families of modest means for whom he had built thousands of affordable homes.
Neal and his wife, Lourdes, were married 47 years. They believed deeply in the importance of education; they had confidence in our students, believing that every graduate would help to improve the quality of life in our community. They were among the first donors to establish an endowment scholarship at UTB, creating the Neal and Lourdes Simmons Foundation in 2002 to support students majoring in education.
We are very happy to have established this endowment. My wife, Lourdes, and I have chosen to try to give something back, not only our time, but also financial support to the university, not only now but in the future. That’s the way we can best serve those people who have done business with us over the years and to whom we owe a lot. On a daily basis we see the need for the majority of the citizens to have the opportunity to get out of their present condition by getting a good education.
Through the years, Neal has been an active leader in the community. As a member of the UTB Development Board, he worked to build financial support for the university with an eye toward long-term goals. In addition to his service at the university, he served on the Brownsville Public Library Board, Brownsville Library Expansion Committee and the Brownsville Library Foundation Board.
His community engagement also included support of the Boy Scouts, and he was a trustee of First United Methodist Church in Brownsville. An accomplishment of which I know he was exceptionally proud was serving as chair of the Valley Regional Medical Center building committee and as Chair of the VRMC Board.
A native of Gonzalez, Texas, Neal finished high school and enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Upon returning from the South Pacific, he went to work as a carpenter and painter – the beginning of what would become his life’s work of homebuilding. For 58 years, Neal, with N. O. Simmons Associates, Inc. and El Valle Homes, has built more than 8,000 homes in Corpus Christi, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Laredo and Brownsville.
Neal will be greatly missed by his family, friends, employees, and the community he served. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 3 at First United Methodist Church, 1225 Boca Chica Blvd., Brownsville. Entombment will follow in the Mausoleum at Buena Vista Burial Park.
Gifts to honor the Simmons’ legacy can be made to The Neal and Lourdes Simmons Endowment in care of Irv Downing, UTB Institutional Advancement, One West University Blvd, Brownsville, Texas 78520. Friends may sign the guestbook and send condolences online.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Juliet V. García