Obituary — Lillian M. Simms

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Lillian M. Simms, professor emerita of nursing, of Ann Arbor died peacefully Dec. 11, 2022, at the age of 92.

She was surrounded by the love of her family and ready to take on her last adventure, reuniting with loved ones passed. Lillian summed up the totality of her life in her memoirs, writing, “Love, romance, music, children, and travel. We had it all.” 

Lillian M. Simms
Lillian M. Simms

Lillian was born in Detroit on April 13, 1930, to John Jacob Miller and Mary Agnes (Knight) Miller, proud third-generation descendants of German and Polish immigrants. Despite starting from humble beginnings, Lillian’s life was rich and full.

She grew up on the family’s dairy farm in Remus, Michigan, with her six siblings and loving parents. Lillian’s father was the first to encourage her to seek an education, and when things got tough, to stick with it so she could be of service to others. 

After graduating from Remus Consolidated High School as valedictorian, Lillian went on to study nursing at the University of Michigan, starting a long and illustrious career in nursing education. She touched the lives and careers of thousands of nursing students over the succeeding decades. 

During her studies at U-M in 1949, Lillian met her brown-eyed stargazer, Richard, at the Mary Markley House on campus. Richard knew just how to woo fair Lillian, playing the “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano and square-dancing many-a-night away, on top of their industrious studies.

Lillian shared of her life with Richard, “Fifty-five years in all, and it was a life-long adventure from start to finish.” Lillian and Richard raised three beautiful sons: Richard Jr., Frederick and Andrew. 

Lillian earned her B.S.N. degree in 1952 and her M.S. degree in 1966. She eventually earned her doctorate in educational gerontology at the age of 48, and her impressive span of career appointments included staff nursing, clinical and management teaching, leadership of the first nursing administration program in the School of Nursing, and research.

In 1981, Lillian was named the first assistant dean for clinical affairs and associate director for nursing at the U-M Hospitals and School of Nursing. In 1991, Lillian was elected to a fellowship of the American Academy of Nursing. She published numerous articles and books during her tenure, and her research on nursing work redesign and work excitement continues to be widely used in the United States and abroad. 

Lillian loved to travel and was able to combine her professional nursing work with scholarly endeavors in other lands. She conducted workshops in China, Taiwan and New Zealand, and presented papers in Beijing, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Her expertise in gerontology and nursing administration led to international collaborations with schools of nursing in China, Japan and New Zealand. 

In 1995, Lillian retired from her many preeminent nursing and faculty positions, taking on her final and lifelong appointment as professor emerita in the School of Nursing. Lillian focused the next years of her wonderful life engaged in lifelong learning, gardening, cooking and helping her children raise her amazing grandchildren and find many adventures and travels of their own. 

Lillian is survived by her loving sisters Bernadine Layher and Ann Miller-Chisolm; her children Richard Simms Jr. and Elizabeth Simms, Frederick and Debbie Simms, Andrew Simms and Merianne White; her grandchildren; and her first great-grandchild. 

A private memorial service will take place in the spring at the Miller family farm. In lieu of flowers, Lillian requested donations to the School of Nursing Class of 1952 Scholarship Fund.

Submitted by Frederick Simms

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