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EFSC Remembers Benefactor and Friend Bernie Simpkins

October 23, 2020 - Eastern Florida State College paused this week to remember a benefactor and good friend: Bernie Simpkins.

Bernard Simpkins, Brevard Entrepreneur and EFSC BenefactorSimpkins, 92, a highly successful businessman and philanthropist, died Oct. 16, with services Wednesday to honor his life and contributions to the Space Coast.

Simpkins was among the college’s strongest supporters for decades, serving on the Board of Trustees when EFSC was Brevard Community College and creating programs to benefit business students.

“Bernie was the embodiment of the EFSC spirit and what we aspire to teach students about the importance of knowledge, setting goals high and giving back to the community where they live,” said college President Dr. Jim Richey.

“He was passionate about education and enjoyed meeting with students and encouraging them in their careers, especially young entrepreneurs who he saw as essential to our country’s future.

“He changed lives for the better and left behind a rich and empowering legacy at EFSC and in Brevard County that will resonate for many years to come.”

In 2000, Simpkins donated $250,000 to start the Simpkins Speaker Series that brings some of the nation’s most innovative entrepreneurs and business leaders to the college to share their stories of success.

Bernie Simpkins scholarship presentation to Corwin Decker
Bernie Simpkins presents a Simpkins Entrepreneurial Scholarship to student Corwin Decker in November 2018.

He also provided scholarships to promising business students and in 2007 donated $1 million to start an Entrepreneurial Business program to teach the next generation of business owners.

The Simpkins Fine Arts Center, which is home to the college’s Performing and Visual Arts programs on the Cocoa Campus, is named in his honor.

Among those at the college who knew Simpkins well is Jack Parker, Vice President of External Affairs, who called Simpkins “a kind, caring and compassionate man who put the needs of others above his own.

“He loved mentoring students and teaching them how to succeed in business and in life. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people benefited from his advice. There will never be another like him.”

That sentiment was echoed during his memorial service at Grace United Methodist Church on Merritt Island where members of the EFSC community performed moving musical tributes.

“You felt good after being with Bernie. He was someone who made you feel better about yourself,” said Rev. Scott Smith, pastor of First United Methodist of Ormond  Beach. “The joy he brought you made you realize I’m a better person because I’ve spent time with Bernie. That’s a great gift.”

Due to the COVID pandemic, the service was livestreamed so family and friends on the Space Coast and in Ormond Beach, where he spent time with his daughter Jill, could watch online.

Richey summed up the feelings of many at EFSC this way: “Bernie was among the very best friends the college ever had. I’m going to miss him and so are many others. We will always be grateful for his contributions and he has a special place in our hearts.”