Ronald Jonathan Simmons '82, who surmounted great difficulties to become a successful business entrepreneur, was born on October 4, 1960, in New York City. A son of Jonathan Simmons, a technical illustrator, and the former Hilda Maria Cespades, he grew up in Oyster Bay on Long Island and was graduated from Oyster Bay High School. There he proved himself to be a talented student-athlete and was chosen president of the Student Council as well as captain of the basketball team.
Ron Simmons, also known as Ronnie, came to Hamilton under the Higher Education Opportunity Program in the summer of 1978. He matriculated at the College that fall, joined Delta Upsilon, and went out for j.v. basketball and played on the varsity team for a time. It was in track, however, that he set College records, especially in the 100-meter and 200-meter distances. He was also active in the Black and Latin Student Union. His activities and achievements were all the more remarkable in view of his having to contend with serious health problems related to his kidneys. Nonetheless, he remained ever in good spirits and, majoring in public policy, earned his diploma in 1982.
Ron Simmons found successful employment as a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch in New York City. By the age of 25, however, his kidneys began to fail, and he turned to less stressful and demanding work, opening with his father and helping him to run a family thrift store. He next engaged in rehabilitating and selling real estate properties until 1989, when he moved to Richmond, VA, and went into business for himself. With a cousin, he established and became the owner of Cadworks, Inc., a computer-aided design drafting firm, specializing in computer images of blueprints and sketches. Running his own business enabled him to schedule his frequently needed kidney dialysis treatments on his own time.
Out of the original Cadworks came a collection of companies, including Cadworks Engineering, Cadworks Industrial, and Cadworks Management, all forming a multi-faceted engineering support group for the construction, design, and management of architectural, mechanical, electrical, and civil projects. With his companies, and while continuing to take postgraduate business courses, Ron Simmons assisted as a consultant and mentor in the development of several Richmond businesses. For 14 years Cadworks served businesses both locally and nationally, and on more than one occasion he and his company received awards for business acumen and small business success.
Ron Simmons, who became an active member of the Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council, had an irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit that led him also to purchase and operate Barracuda Waterworks, a speedboat and water-ski rental company in Florida. In recent years, he co-owned Cello Development Corp., and served as vice president of its Richmond digital scanning division.
Ron Simmons was an outgoing, genial man who made friends easily, and the large number of them proved that he put a high premium on personal friendship. His leisure activities included golf, woodworking, and cooking, and he remained long involved in coaching basketball and track.
In 1990, Ron Simmons received a kidney transplant from his mother. Since statistics then indicated that the average length of a person's life after such a transplant is 13 years, the uncertainty about his future helped fuel his desire to excel as an entrepreneur and create a legacy for himself and his family. He turned a dire situation into a story of success while beating the statistical odds.
Ronald J. Simmons' life ended on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2008, following several months of combating renal cancer. In addition to his mother and father, he leaves his wife, Janneke Marita (Marjan) Simmons, a native of the Netherlands whom he had married in 1987. Also surviving are three children, Rebecca, Nicholas, and Sabrina, and two brothers.