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Bob "Chief" Simmons

When Bob “Chief” Simmons received his degree last month, he didn’t have to go far to find a job. He’s the inspector on the three-month road reconstruction project in the back of the Columbus Campus.

“I got my degree and my first job was here on the Columbus State campus,” says Simmons.

His path to Columbus State for the now 58-year old graduate is truly a life story. His professional career began with a 24-year tenure in the U.S. Navy where he eventually retired as a Chief Petty Officer (that’s where he got the nickname “Chief”).

While in the Navy he often did calculations, worked with maps and he was good in math. Due to that work experience, Simmons didn’t have trouble finding a job after his discharge 13 years ago. He was hired by EMH&T, Inc, the principal contractor on the Columbus Campus road reconstruction project.

EMH&T has three offices (Columbus, Indianapolis and Charlotte) with more than 400 employees. The company contracts on a wide array of construction, engineering, planning and surveying projects. Simmons is a Senior Resident Project Representative, or, in laymen’s terms, a senior inspector.

His role is to be an on-site professional overseeing EMH&T projects to make sure the company’s subcontractors are completing work to specifications.

“I make sure the client, in this case, Columbus State, is getting what they pay for,” says Simmons. On the current campus road reconstruction project, he keeps tabs on all aspects of the project including landscaping, paving, cement paving, surveying and road striping.

Simmons’ childhood years were spent in Florida. As a teenager, he lived in Canton. Following high school, he attended the University of Akron as an arts major. After six months, he dropped out and ventured to California with friends. He was a part-time roadie with a rock band and worked odd jobs to earn money. That got old after a couple of years so he enlisted in the Navy. He enjoyed the work and benefits of traveling so much that his four-year commitment turned into a 24-year naval career.

His service included two tours during the Persian Gulf War. As part of Operation Desert Shield, Simmons served for six months on the USS Warden. He was part of a navigation team standing watch around-the-clock monitoring weather conditions and the positon of the ship. A second tour two years later found him supporting a large marine detachment which pulled into Kuwait City.

Not only was the career challenging, it was educational. While enlisted, Simmons earned an associate of arts degree from Chaminade University in Hawaii. Some classes were at the college near his naval base, others were offered right on the ship.

More than a decade after retiring from the military, Simmons discovered he was eligible for tuition benefits through the Veterans Administration. He figured it’s never too late to upgrade work skills so he enrolled at Columbus State.

“Why wouldn’t I take advantage?” says Simmons. “You don’t turn down free education.” In May, he earned his Associate of Applied Science in Construction Science and Engineering Technologies.

“Bob Simmons is a tremendous asset in any classroom, because he leads by example,” says Dean Bortz, associate professor of Construction Management and Applied Science. “Teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin, so those new to the design-build-manage industry learn from him and others who have been there, done that.”

His son, Ryan, 20, is currently enrolled at Columbus State working on his Automotive Service Technician Certificate in the Automotive Technology program. Simmons says, “I instilled the importance of education in my two children.”

Simmons’ new degree already led to a pay raise and promotion at EMH&T. Not a bad start with the ink still drying on his diploma.