USN remembers Interim Director Kay Simmons

Kay Simmons led USN in 1990-1991 and also served as Director of Development during the school's campaign to build the wooden playground.
By Juanita I.C. Traughber, Communications Director
University School of Nashville Interim Director Kay Simmons died Friday, Nov. 12, after an extended struggle with progressive supranuclear palsy. 

A fundraiser by profession, Simmons joined USN as Director of Development in 1986. Four years later, the Board of Trustees elected her to guide the school for the 1990-1991 academic year between Director Harvey Sperling and Director Ed Costello. During that time, she led the school’s $12,315 Buy-A-Board campaign to construct the wooden playground still standing today. Some 200 volunteers built and assembled its beams, tunnels, slides, and bridges in 80 hours over five days in April.

“It was at University School where she found her passion for education and helping young people learn and achieve,” her family wrote in her obituary. “It was also there that she found a wonderful mentor and a culture that closely aligned with her personal values of mutual respect and inclusivity.”

Simmons remained at USN through 1992 and later stepped into public education, founding the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, working as the Special Assistant to the Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, and representing District 9 on the MNPS Board of Education. 

“Kay helped create our modern culture of philanthropy as Development Director and went on to serve the city, especially its schools, in a broad range of roles, including the Alliance for Public Education and the MNPS Board. Our hard-working playground carries a plaque that rightly bears her name, as a salute to the way that project brought the community together,” said Director Vince Durnan.

She is survived by her husband, Keith; their children, Jennifer Simmons McGugin ’96, Lauren Kay Simmons Beem, and Barton William Simmons; grandchildren and siblings.

Visitation is 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20 at the Simmons family home, 1112 Park Ridge Drive, as well as from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21 at the Christ Church Cathedral, 900 Broadway. Her memorial service follows at 2 p.m. at the church.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests gifts in her honor be made to University School of Nashville, Greenways for Nashville, or the Nashville Public Education Foundation.
    • Kay Simmons served as Interim Director in 1990-1991.

    • Kay Simmons talks with Bob Gottlieb before an early morning Board of Trustees meeting during the 1989-1990 school year.

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