Three Southland Greats Selected for Conference’s Hall of Honor

first_imgA native of Beaumont, Simmons earned music degrees from Memphis State, Houston and McNeese State before returning to Beaumont in 1970, joining the Lamar faculty as an instructor and director of the marching band. He rose through the ranks, later being named chair of the Department of Music and Theatre and dean of the College of Fine Arts, and assumed the school’s presidency on September 1, 1999.Throughout his educational career, Simmons has attracted acclaim as a performer on clarinet, saxophone and piano. He continues to maintain a performance schedule. FRISCO, Texas – The Southland Conference revealed its Hall of Honor Class of 2018 featuring a former university president, a longtime volleyball official and administrator, and a former standout student-athlete, league Commissioner Tom Burnett announced Thursday.  The honorees will bring the total number of inductees to 50 dating back to the Southland’s first Hall of Honor class in 1999. Southland Hall of Honor “The Southland Conference membership is honored to induct these three exceptionally worthy individuals, each with remarkable records of sustained success,” said Burnett.  “Dr. Jimmy Simmons provided more than 40 years of service to Lamar and is regarded as one of the most impactful presidents in school history.  He served Lamar athletics tremendously throughout his tenure, and was a strong presidential voice in Southland matters.” Rhonda Rube-Baird, Northwestern State softballRhonda Rube-Baird, a Baton Rouge native, was the first All-American in Northwestern State softball history. The catcher was a two-time Southland Conference Softball Player of the Year and earned All-Conference honors in each of her four years in Natchitoches (1989-92). The Class of 2018 features the induction of former Lamar University president Dr. Jimmy Simmons, legendary league coordinator of volleyball officials Linda Fletcher, and former Northwestern State softball student-athlete Rhonda Rube-Baird.   The inductees, selected by the Conference’s Awards Committee, are slated for induction May 22 at the annual Southland Honors Dinner and Ceremony at the Westin Stonebriar Hotel in Frisco.   Fletcher will be honored posthumously.   His tenure was marked with numerous capital campaigns, reaching over $130 million raised by the time he retired, including development efforts to provide funding for scholarship programs, academic offerings, and construction projects.   During Simmons’ years in office, several programs were added at Lamar including five new bachelor’s degrees, three new master’s degrees, and three doctoral degrees and the first Ph.D. program at the university. Dr. James “Jimmy” Simmons, President, LamarDr. Jimmy Simmons was president of Lamar for 14 years — from 1999 until 2014 – and he worked at the university for more than four decades.  He also served as the chairman of the Southland Conference Board of Directors from 2001-2004. Fletcher began officiating in 1967 as a State Volleyball referee for the University Interscholastic League (Texas high schools). She went on to help found the Southwest Volleyball Officials’ Association, later renamed the Texas Association of Sports Officials. The longtime Austin, Texas, resident was a charter member of the Austin High School Volleyball Chapter of the organization. Former Southland Conference volleyball referee and Fletcher’s longtime friend Gloria Cox will accept the award at the Honors Dinner. Linda Fletcher, Former Southland Conference Coordinator of Volleyball OfficialsVolleyball pioneer Linda Fletcher was the conference’s coordinator of officials for nearly 30 years. Fletcher began as the league’s coordinator of officials in 1989, serving in the role until she passed away unexpectedly in October 2017.  Fletcher served in a similar capacity for the Southwest Conference. A 2000 inductee in the Professional Association of Volleyball Officials Hall of Fame, Fletcher was an advocate for teaching and coaching, mentoring hundreds of referees during her half century in the sport. “Rhonda Rube-Baird was a dominant performer in Southland softball from 1989-92, as evidenced by her All-American honors and placement on the Southland Softball All-Time Team,” Burnett said. “Ultimately, she was a true student-athlete, receiving Southland All-Academic recognition in addition to her on-field accomplishments.” Fletcher held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas. Athletics at Lamar blossomed under Simmons’ direction, as the Cardinals’ varsity football program was brought back to competition after a 25-year absence.  Additionally, Lamar also brought back varsity softball and added women’s soccer during his tenure.   “Linda Fletcher started with the Southland when volleyball was brand new to the league,” Burnett added.  “And she went on to spend 29 years performing wonderful work as an administrator and ambassador for the game that she loved deeply. It’s impossible to overstate her passion and how beloved she was within the volleyball community.” In conjunction with the Southland’s 50th anniversary in 2013, Baird was named to the conference’s Softball All-Time Team.   She finished her career with a .327 career batting average, departing with the Southland record for career doubles with 45 (10th best all-time in the NCAA at the time). Defensively, she cut down 32 percent (48-148) of runners who attempted to steal on her and picked off 13 baserunners from behind the plate. Other highlights include her team’s first Southland championship in 1991, a season in which she hit .341 and boasted a .992 fielding percentage. As a senior, Baird earned Southland All-Academic honors. She went on to secure two bachelor’s degrees from Northwestern State.  She is a registered nurse in Baton Rouge.last_img read more

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