Janet L. McCoy


AUBURN -- Jack Simms, the first head of Auburn University's Department of Journalism, is returning temporarily to lead the department, John Heilman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, has announced.

Simms, who retired after 18 years at AU, was asked by Heilman to return as interim head of journalism following the resignation of department head Jerry Brown, who leaves June 30 to become dean of the School of Journalism at the University of Montana. Simms' appointment is effective July 1.

"I am delighted that Jack Simms has agreed to serve as interim head of the Department of Journalism," Heilman said. "The department will apply for reaccreditation during the coming year and Jack has the proven experience and expertise to lead the department through this important process.

"Jack is widely respected on campus and off for the commitment and ability with which he served as the founding head of the Department of Journalism," Heilman added. "I look forward to working closely with him during the coming year."

Simms has worked on several projects for the department since he retired in 1992. He played a key role in the preparation of the department's first application for accreditation in 1995, which culminated in the department receiving unanimous, six- year accreditation from the Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. It is one of only 100 programs nationwide to receive such status.

Simms joined AU in 1974 after a 23-year career with The Associated Press, taking over a fledgling Department of Journalism that had just been established. Journalism classes have been taught at Auburn since 1919.

During Simms' tenure, the department was known for providing a strong, practical education for future reporters as well as a high job placement rate for its graduates.

Simms' ties to Auburn began at age 11 when his family moved from Oregon to Auburn where his father headed the U.S. Department of Agriculture's livestock disease research unit.

He graduated from Lee County High School and attended Auburn for one quarter before serving in the Marine Corps during World War II. He returned to Auburn to study pre-veterinary medicine, but later changed his major to English/journalism.

Simms was named editor of The Auburn Plainsman in 1949 and graduated later the same year from what was then called Alabama Polytechnic Institute. He earned a master's degree at Louisiana State University in 1951.

He then joined AP, working as a newsman in Atlanta. He later worked for AP in Tampa, Fla.; Louisville, Ky.; Boston, where he was bureau chief for the New England states; and New York City, where he was deputy general sports editor.

After he came to AU in 1974, Simms continued to work for AP and other news services, coordinating and supervising pools of reporters during four Olympic Games -- 1976 in Montreal, 1980 in Moscow, 1984 in Los Angeles and 1988 in Seoul.

Simms and Mickey Logue, a retired journalism professor, are authors of two pictorial history books on Auburn. In addition, Simms wrote a section on Ted Williams in the 1972 book The Sport Immortals.

AU's Department of Journalism has seven faculty and 140 majors.

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CONTACT: Simms, 334/844-4607; and Heilman, 334/844-2183.