Lifetime Legacy Award (2015)
Patricia Simmons, who also goes by Trish, Tricia, or Trisha, arrived at HBA in 1963 to teach the school’s very first kindergarten class. A Mississippi native, Trish learned about HBA through missionary friends. In those difficult years of financial insecurity, diminished resources, and uncertainty, she set an example to faculty and students alike of how enthusiasm, humor, compassion and talent could produce excellence in the most difficult of circumstances. Trish went on to serve as second and third grade teacher, as well as two stints as elementary principal in her first 19 years at HBA.
One of her early kindergarteners recalls the Southern accent of Miss Simmons. “My mom said that I, too, had (that) after my first year in her class.” Another student said, “I remember starting every day with a Bible story and prayer. We would gather together on the floor and she would read to us. I could tell that she really loved the Lord and teaching us about Jesus.”
Trish was also known for her gift for music and drama which blessed her students, the school, the MAC (Mainland Advisory Council), Nuuanu Baptist Church, and the entire Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention. She wrote Christmas plays, prayer guides, missionary lessons, and directed musical productions for all of these entities. The most unforgettable presentation was “Let George Do It,” a patriotic musical about George Washington in observance of the nation’s bicentennial year in 1976. The superb performance by her third and fourth graders was a hit with the charter members of the Mainland Advisory Council, who came to Honolulu in 1977 for their very first meeting. MAC friends enjoyed many more years of inspiring student performances led by Miss Simmons.
After Trish’s father passed away in 1981, she retired from HBA to return to Mississippi to be closer to her mother. During the next decade, Trish served as the Girls in Action Consultant for the Mississippi Baptist Convention. As part of her duties, she ran the GA missions camp every summer at Camp Garaway. She traveled the state, encouraging the churches to organize missions education groups, and interviewed college students to be camp counselors.
In 1992, Mary Eleanor Kong encouraged Trish to return to Hawaii as a director in our Development Office. Trish protested that she did not know anything about fundraising, but Mary Eleanor assured her that they would just be working in the office and that no travel would be involved. As we all know, that is not how things worked out and Trish did a lot of traveling on behalf of the school. Her friendliness and love of HBA and Jesus made her our perfect ambassador. After seven years in this capacity, Trish retired a second time.
Each February, she returns to Hawaii for MAC Week. She greets new and returning MAC members at the airport and assists with the daily details involved in the meetings.
God has used Trish in many ways to make HBA what it is today, but the most important has been through prayer. She rises early every day to have her personal time with Jesus and her prayer list is long. Her sensitivity to others’ needs is legendary. She had a special ministry to her students, their parents, church members, countless friends, and later to those she tutored at the Christian Women’s Job Corps in Mississippi. As one long time faculty says, “There is no division between her personal, spiritual and professional lives. She has a gift for friendship, which has blessed all she has touched.”