Dr. Sam Simmons, one of the founders of Rockbridge Seminary, will retire from Rockbridge Seminary on December 31, 2016. Simmons is concluding a thirteen-year tenure as the Chief Academic Officer, Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program, and Professor of Global Studies.
“Sam has ensured the quality of the Rockbridge educational experience while caring deeply about students and faculty,” said Dr. Darryl Wilson, a professor and member of the Academic Council. “He has been a great encourager for me and many others.” Dr. Randy Millwood, another member of the Academic Council wrote, “Sam Simmons has been for me a teacher’s teacher. He has spent so many hours equipping me to facilitate courses-doing the techy stuff like fixing a link or tweaking an assignment, but far more importantly, speaking out of his experience in online education. He has helped me to really relate to students in this virtual world and to embrace the uniqueness of online learning.”
Prior to Rockbridge, Dr. Simmons served as the Director of the Southern California Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. His service in higher education included several administrative positions at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He also pastored churches in Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi. Simmons has written many journal articles and curricula for LifeWay. His commitment to missions has led him to teach in Germany, Indonesia, Russia, South Korea, and Zambia.
Simmons wrote an article entitled “The Innovative Seminary,” in which he proposed changing the traditional seminary to a curriculum design focused on the five biblical purposes of fellowship, discipleship, ministry, evangelism, and worship. He envisioned a radically different kind of seminary. The goal of the curriculum would not ultimately be the attainment of knowledge, but the development of ministry skills. That vision became reality when, along with Gary Waller and Daryl Eldridge, he cofounded Rockbridge University in 2003. The school later became Rockbridge Seminary.
In 2004, fourteen brave students enrolled in the first class. The seminary was unaccredited. The only faculty were the three cofounders. Today 906 students have matriculated and 256 have graduated. Rockbridge now has over 370 partners and students who have served in 20 countries. Simmons worked with 59 faculty members.
During his tenure, Simmons wrote course content, designed the learning management course template, developed the catalogue of courses, and designed the processes and systems in admissions and registration. Later he wrote the self-study report that led to accreditation with the Distance Education Accrediting Commission in 2013 and reaccreditation in 2016. Simmons developed and directed the Doctor of Ministry Program.
“Sam is a holy man, a forward-thinker, and a strategist who has tackled some of the most complex assignments involved in designing and launching the first-ever, all online seminary,” said Katie Brazelton, a former faculty member of Rockbridge and current Board member. “He has been an innovative trailblazer, serving tirelessly and obediently to fulfill this call from God.”
In January 2016, the Board of Trustees dedicated the course “Understanding Other Cultures” in honor of Sam and Trish Simmons. John Wilkinson, Vice President of the Board, said “Sam is an outstanding mission-minded man of God with great character. He has a brilliant intellect and the gift of strategic thinking along with a sense of humor. He will be missed.”
The Simmons have been drawn to serve and reach the people of Bali, Indonesia. Their love for the Balinese people led them to adopt Suci, an adult daughter. Upon retirement, the Simmons plan to attend a language school to learn Indonesian. Sam has become certified to teach English as a second language, and they plan to invest their lives in helping churches and other ministries in Bali.
Dr. Sam Simmons has left an indelible imprint upon Rockbridge Seminary and theological education.