Emeritus and Retired Faculty and Staff Association

William "Willie" T. Simmons, PhD


Department of Physical Education
Deceased: 2017

Through the course of his long life and campus tenure, Willie Simmons was one of Chico State’s most memorable coaches and faculty members. 

Following service in the US Army Air Corps in World War II, Simmons attended Chico State and became one of the college’s most outstanding athletes. Upon graduation, he was convinced by legendary coach and physical education chair Art Acker to teach at the University. With Acker as his mentor, Simmons earned his doctorate and grew as a teacher, developing a pedagogical style that blended class content with personal growth. In the words of emerita professor Fran Coslet, another renowned teacher and coach, “He had an unorthodox style that was very effective, and he used sports as a laboratory in learning life’s lessons. He was beloved by many young people who had the good fortune of enrolling in his classes.” 

Simmons is probably best known for his many years coaching boxing and teaching ballroom dancing, two activities he himself excelled in, but was able to impart not just the technique but the joy and satisfaction that could be had from both. Hundreds of alumni over his 47-year career were the beneficiaries. But Simmons’ contributions went well beyond these two areas. He was a strong advocate for the benefits of exercise, including many years when this was not widely understood, and naturally led by example, jogging around campus encouraging others. He was a thoughtful administrator, not just leading PE to be a more progressive program but reorganizing it at the behest of President Robert Hill. For the broader athletic community, Simmons was a constant and important presence in and around Chico, officiating games and organizing youth sports and recreation for decades.

Until his death in 2017 at the age of 98, Simmons could fondly recall many of the campus and community members he had taught and mentored. It is fair to say all of them remembered him.

Simmons also earned his master’s degree and teaching credential from Chico State. His PhD in physical education is from the University of Oregon.

Portrait of William "Willie" T. Simmons, PhD