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Mike Simmonds Tapped into the American Dream and Made Life Better for Many

By Bill Wax

Builders of Bellevue University: Across the Years and Generations

In celebration of Bellevue University’s 50th Anniversary, we take time to recognize some of the many individuals and organizations that have helped to build the University into Nebraska’s largest private college or university. Bellevue University has entrepreneurial roots, and the late Michael H. “Mike” Simmonds personified that spirit as a Builder of Bellevue University.

Mike Simmonds Tapped into the American Dream and Made Life Better for Many

Santa Monica, California, native Mike Simmonds’ journey to business success began with a single bite of a Whopper sandwich. That fortuitous experience led to a lucrative restaurant career, and eventually, it led him to support and serve on the Board of Bellevue University.

MSimmonds 96 ppiSimmonds’ own college career followed a path similar to that of many Bellevue University’s students. In the 1970s, while completing a bachelor’s degree in Business at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Simmonds, then a young U.S. Army veteran, husband and father, worked as a manager trainee job in a Decatur, Alabama, Burger King Restaurant.

After graduating in 1976, he and his wife, Lin, moved their growing family north, and he opened a Burger King in Fremont, Nebraska. For the next three decades plus, the family owned Simmonds Restaurant Management, Inc., grew rapidly, at its peak operating more than 90 Burger Kings, Taco John’s, and Jimmy John’s stores and employing more than 2,800 people. During that period, he was consistently recognized as one of premier Burger King franchise owners.  After selling the restaurants in 2008, he pursued other business ventures, including real estate, the security industry, and a concierge medicine start-up company.

Simmonds joined the Bellevue University Board in 2001 and made an immediate impact, helping provide direction and keep the University true to its original educational mission and vision. He was Chair of the Board for two years, and supported facilities and program development and student scholarship initiatives.

He served and supported many worthy non-profit causes in the greater Omaha area. He was on the Board of Methodist Hospital Foundation, the Salvation Army, CUES and Merrymakers. “America is truly a land of opportunity,” Simmonds said in 2009, when he and his wife, Lin, received the 2009 Outstanding Philanthropists Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Nebraska chapter. “Lin and I and our family have been able to tap into that and live the dream…the causes we support are helping to make life better.”

In 20Simmonds Hood 96 ppi14, Bellevue University awarded Simmonds an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree in recognition of his business accomplishments, philanthropy, and civic engagement.