Significant Gift Invests in Simmons University’s Vision For Educating Inclusive “Everyday Leaders”

New Jennifer Eckert Center for Leadership and Engagement will enhance leadership development opportunities for students and advance Simmons’ work as one of Boston’s premier leadership institutions.

Simmons University today announced a new $5 million gift from Simmons alumna and Trustee Jennifer Eckert to expand the scope and impact of its innovative approach to leadership education throughout the institution. The gift will create the new Jennifer Eckert Center for Leadership and Engagement and provide opportunities for students, faculty, staff, alumnae/i, and professionals to develop and advance their inclusive leadership skills. 

“The mission of Simmons is to educate and empower the next generation of leaders, and I am so grateful to Jennifer Eckert for her transformative investment in leadership experiences across the University,” said Simmons President Lynn Perry Wooten. “The Jennifer Eckert Center for Leadership and Engagement will enable us to more explicitly and intentionally embed leadership into the student experience from the moment they are accepted and help further Simmons’ work as one of Boston’s premier leadership institutions.”

The Jennifer Eckert Center for Leadership and Engagement will enhance leadership development opportunities for a diverse and engaged student body by empowering students to practice Everyday Leadership, social responsibility, civic engagement, and mutual respect. The concept of being an “everyday leader” challenges individuals to use their individual strengths and passions to drive meaningful change. Everyday leaders embrace a life of continuous learning and utilize their talents to solve the problems of their time.

"Everyday leadership applies to all of us, whether we’re running a business, a non-profit or mentoring an individual. We are all connected and vital to one another,” said Eckert, who holds a master’s degree from Simmons’ School of Social Work. “The world needs everyday leaders now more than ever, and the commitment Simmons and President Wooten have made inspires me. I’m honored to have the opportunity to support this vital initiative.”

The gift will support a variety of student leadership initiatives, including the Jennifer Eckert Leadership Fellow program that enables graduate students to lead projects on diversity, equity and inclusion, and student affairs, and receive professional leadership coaching to support their development as future leaders in their field. The gift will also support the Simmons Bridge Program, which provides incoming first-year Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) an opportunity to connect, learn, and thrive in the Simmons community. In addition, it will advance opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in community service, citizenship, and leadership development throughout their time at Simmons.  

“I am so moved by Jennifer Eckert and so grateful for her support. Her gift will help Simmons step into its full and rightful place in advancing leadership,” said Susan MacKenty Brady, CEO of the Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership, which will partner with the Jennifer Eckert Center on initiatives to help individuals advance their leadership skills so they can grow and foster a culture of inclusion within their organizations. 

The gift and the new Jennifer Eckert Center for Leadership and Engagement was announced during the official investiture ceremony of President Wooten on April 11, 2022. Wooten, who became the ninth president of Simmons in July 2020, is the first African American to lead the institution. 

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