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Devoted to Diversity

Kendall L. Simmonds Scholarship continues professor’s legacy

October 11, 2019
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During his more than three decades as professor of clinical accounting at USC Leventhal, Kendall L. Simmonds built a legacy of support for underrepresented minority students. Many of those young people might never have considered an accounting or business degree—or even applying to USC—but are now in positions of leadership in the accounting profession and business world.

Although Simmonds retired in May, his efforts toward equity and diversity will not end. As professor emeritus, his legacy will live on in perpetuity through the Professor Kendall L. Simmonds, Sr. Legacy Scholarship.

Established in 2018, the Simmonds Scholarship provides critical support to low-income Black/African-American students entering USC primarily in the field of accounting, and secondarily, finance or business. Funded by donations, the scholarship will be awarded annually to one undergraduate and one graduate student demonstrating academic excellence and financial need. The scholarship will be awarded via the Black Alumni Association.

“My wife says that I’m just a lifelong student, and I think that’s probably true. I am living vicariously through the successes of my students. I want to see them achieve.”—Professor Emeritus Kendall L. Simmonds

“Providing educational opportunities for underrepresented students is of particular importance,” Simmonds said. “It is central to assuring diversity on campus and in the business world beyond our gates.”

A vital component of the scholarship will be mentorship on three levels: with a fellow student, a recent graduate learning the profession and a manager or partner-level professional.

“If that means I have to come back to campus as a mentor, so be it,” said Simmonds. “There are lots of things that we can do to help students through their college career, so they will realize, ‘Yeah, I can do this. There are opportunities for me.’”

The idea for the scholarship, however, came as a surprise to Simmonds.

At his Leventhal-sponsored retirement dinner on campus last spring, he found out that his family, led by his wife, daughter, son and daughter-in-law, had been working with the school for two years on the scholarship. “I’m very impressed that they took the time to establish this in my honor,” he said.

Beloved Teacher and Mentor

In 2003, Simmonds founded Leventhal’s Summer Leadership Program (SLP). With the Big Four and AT&T as program sponsors, the SLP invited 40 underrepresented minority high school students to campus each summer for an introduction to accounting and business fundamentals, the university admissions process and accounting professionals. It was a project particularly dear to his heart.

“What I liked was that we were making a difference in the community,” he said.

A beloved teacher and mentor, Simmonds is a three-time recipient of the Golden Apple Excellence in Teaching Award. He has been honored with several other awards from his students and colleagues: the Evan C. Thompson Faculty Mentoring and Leadership Award, the USC Mellon Award for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring, the Gamma Sigma Alpha Professor of the Year Award, and the Mortar Board National Senior Honor Society Faculty Award, amongst others.

His dedication to the students went beyond the classroom. The Marshall Honors program, which Simmonds launched in 1999, introduced accounting students to the profession as it is practiced in the entertainment industry. Students pitched senior vice presidents at Paramount and Sony Pictures, leading, in many cases, to internships offered on the spot.

Simmonds was faculty advisor for 10 student organizations over the years, including the Accounting Society for 10 years and the Black Business Students Association (BBSA) for eight years. 

“My wife says that I’m just a lifelong student, and I think that’s probably true,” Simmonds said. “I am living vicariously through the successes of my students. I want to see them achieve.”