In honor of Veteran’s Day, November’s Alumni Spotlight features Captain Donald B. Simmons, III '87. Captain Simmons recently retired as a highly decorated and distinguished senior military officer. During his military career he accumulated over 2,500 flight hours in over 30 different aircraft types and over 200 aircraft carrier arrested landings. Captain Simmons, who endows the Captain Donald B. Simmons, III Endowed Scholarship, graduated with a degree in History. His daughter, Danielle Simmons '18, is also an alumni.
Tell us about your Flagler experience and your career.
While at Flagler I majored in History and ran Cross Country. I also attended countless student events and participated in intermural basketball. My senior year I was the Cross Country team Captain and actually set the Flagler College record for the Marathon. Like all Flagler College students, I had exceptional professors. Dr. Thomas Graham was the History department Chair and Cross Country Coach. And, it was Dr. Graham who provided the introduction when I was presented the Flagler College Professional Achievement Award in 2014. Dr. Kessler and Dr. Bailey were both professors in the History Department and retired Naval Officers. My father served as a Naval Warrant Officer so it was no surprise when I sought out a commission following graduation.
At the time I wasn’t aware of any Flagler College graduates that had gone on to become military officers. Over the years Flagler College has produced several military officers. And, I’m hopeful that my career as a highly decorated and distinguished senior military officer will allow those that are interested in serving as a military officer aware that the opportunity is there.
After graduation I attended Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) where I received my commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy. From there I went to Flight school and was designated as a Naval Flight Officer and later became an Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer (AEDO). That allowed me to continue to fly and focus on the acquisition and Aviation Manufacturing, Repair and Overhaul side of the Navy, that I found I really enjoyed. During my military career I accumulated over 2500 flight hours, in over 30 different aircraft types, and over 200 aircraft carrier arrested landings (traps).
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Form a personal point of view I’m most proud of being a good husband and father. I have wonderful parents that continue to set a great example. I strive to set a similar example for my family. I’ve been married for over 27 years and have two wonderful children.
My daughter is a 2018 Flagler College graduate and my son is currently at FGCU. After taking my daughter to several alumni events when she was young I shouldn’t have been surprised when as a high school junior she decided Flagler College was for her and she wasn’t even going to apply anywhere else.
Really nothing is more important than family. I’ve always made decisions based on what was best for my family and not what was always best for my career. I was able to put my family first and have a successful career.
From a career point of view, I am most proud of my 2 tours as a Commanding Officer. In the military having the opportunity to be a Commanding Officer is the pinnacle of a great career. I was fortunate to have 2 tours as a command officer (Fleet Readiness Center Western Pacific in Japan and Fleet Readiness Center Southwest in San Diego, California). Following those tours, I was selected to serve as the Director of Aviation Maintenance for Naval Air Forces and then finally was the Principal Military Director of Logistics for the Naval Air Systems Command.
I’m also very proud of the numerous people that I’ve been privileged to mentor. It’s exceptionally rewarding to watch others succeed.
What advice do you have for current students and recent grads?
Follow your dreams. Find what interests you, what you want to do, and go after it. Never let anyone tell you you can’t do something. Having your diploma is your ticket, now go jump on the ride of your choice. It’s okay to blaze a new trail and it’s always okay to ask for help along the way. The only limits are the ones you place on yourself.
In Naval Aviation we say “work hard / play hard.” Regardless of which career field you choose, to be successfully you’re going to have to work hard. It’s important to balance your hard work with family and fun.
As I attend alumni reunions and alumni events I am always impressed by the success of Flagler College alumni and by large variety of fields they have been successful in.
Why do you give back to Flagler College?
Flagler College was less than 20 years old when I graduated. I knew I had received a great education thanks to the exceptional professors and the personal attention they provided me.
When I was first commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy (back in the 1980’s) I would get asked, “what class are you?” The assumption was that I had gone to the Naval Academy. When I answered that I went to Flagler College the response was always, “never heard of it.” However, later in my career as I became a more senior military officer and had my Flagler College diploma on the wall in my office, people would notice it and comment “what a great school.”
I received financial assistance while attending Flagler College so it’s important to me that now that I’m in a position to give back that I provide a scholarship to help future students, just like I was helped.
I’ve proudly watched Flagler College continue to grow in size and reputation while still being affordable and without losing the individual attention that Flagler College is known for. There’s just no another college anywhere like it.