Dear Faculty and Staff,


We lost a remarkable member of the Simmons University community with the passing of Professor Emeritus Stephen London on December 19. In the course of his 41 years at Simmons, he established an extraordinary legacy of leadership and service that continues to benefit Simmons, Boston, and communities far beyond, including through the many alumnae/i Steve inspired to serve others.


Steve brought to Simmons a strong commitment to education, social justice, and community service stretching back to his undergraduate years at Bowdoin College. Early engagement in civil rights issues inspired him to attend the August 1963 March on Washington at which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Steve crossed paths with the civil rights leader again when Dr. King spoke at Bowdoin. When Steve relocated to pursue graduate studies at the University of Chicago (where he earned his Ph.D.), he became active in the Chicago Campaign of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference which Dr. King led. 


Steve went on to teach at Wellesley College and Harvard University before joining Simmons. While at Harvard, he directed the Phillip Brooks House. At Wellesley, Steve’s impact was seen in the classroom, on campus, and in the community, as has been remarked on by his students, including future public leaders such as Hillary Rodham and Nancy Gist. While there, Steve advocated for the establishment of a Center for Black (African American) Studies, which at the time would have been among the first in the country. His East Boston – Wellesley community engagement project was also among the first of its kind in the nation. 


Steve joined Simmons in 1975 as an associate professor. Over four decades, he worked to build our Department of Sociology which he chaired for 30 years. Early in his career he created Simmons Community Outreach (SCO), giving an institutional home for student-led community service activities. Along the way, Steve recruited and mentored faculty and staff and nurtured countless students. One of those students was Trustee Emerita Emily Scott ’78. Inspired by Steve, and in collaboration with Steve and Kris Schaefer, she made a generous gift of founding the Scott/Ross Center for Community Service, (Steve insisted the Center be named after Emily and her mother, Arlene Ross Gross ’47). Steve was the inaugural director of the Center from 2000 to 2015, which is now known as the Center for Community Engagement.


"Steve was a dedicated professor who cared deeply for all of his students,” says Saher Selod, Associate Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Department. “As chair, he hosted Sociology dinners at his home and made himself available anytime to his students. Steve modeled excellence in teaching and mentorship and will be greatly missed."


As Director, Steve brought his commitment to social justice, his love for the City of Boston, and his fierce dedication to student development and leadership to all of the work of the Scott/Ross Center. This included building deep and lasting partnerships for student and alumnae/I engagement, such as the Promising Pals pen-pals program with the James P. Timilty Middle School, which ran for more than 30 years, and bringing the Jumpstart AmeriCorps early childhood literacy program and one of the first chapters of Strong Women, Strong Girls to campus, both of which persist to this day. 


Steve not only brought student volunteerism to the Boston community, but also opened the Simmons campus to the community, regularly bringing Boston Public High School students to his class and hosting summer programs for community organizations like MissionSafe and Sociedad Latina. The Center for Community Engagement continues to connect students to the Boston community as a direct result of Steve’s legacy, always with student leadership at the center. 


“Community Engagement at Simmons would not be what it is today without the tremendous foundation that Steve built: student leadership and community impact remain at the heart of all we do,” says Meghan Doran, Director of Simmons Community Engagement.


Steve’s contributions to the University have been recognized many times over the years. Under his leadership, Community Engagement’s proven impact has earned it “Honor Roll with Distinction” recognition multiple times from the Corporation for National and Community Service. In 2000, Emily Scott '78 established the Stephen London Community Service Endowed Scholarship in honor of Steve’s commitment to students. Simmons Alumnae/i Association honored Steve with the Priscilla McKee Award in 2003 in recognition of his exceptional service to the Simmons community. In 2015, the annual Steve London Faculty/Staff Community Engagement Award was created. Following his retirement in 2016, the Board of Trustees awarded him the title Professor Emeritus. In 2022, Steve’s contributions were recognized in official proclamations issued by the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  


Beyond his professional contributions, Steve’s engaging personality, endless enthusiasm, and gentle bearing won him respect and admiration among his students and colleagues alike. His optimism, generosity of spirit, and relentless humor made the Simmons Sociology department a welcoming space and was appreciated across generations by the wider Simmons community. 


Simmons has extended its condolences to Steve’s wife, Deirdre, his children Andrea, Jonathan, Jeffrey, and Jessica, as well as his six grandchildren. An additional tribute to Steve is available to read online. Several members of Steve’s family had ties to Simmons that preceded his own, including his first wife, Karen Davis ’64, his aunt, Mollie Robinson Michelman ’34, and brother, Howard London MSW ’87.


In cooperation with Steve’s family, Simmons will host a celebration of his life and announce the renaming of the Center for Community Engagement at Simmons to the Stephen D. London Center for Community Engagement and Social Justice on Sunday, February 12, 2023, from 11 am to 2 pm. An invitation will be forthcoming, please save the date. In the meantime, please share your memories of Steve and any pictures you have with his family.


Steve’s family has asked that those interested kindly consider making a contribution in memory of Steve to the Stephen D. London Center for Community Engagement and Social Justice or to the Stephen D. London Scholarship Fund at Simmons University.



Lynn Perry Wooten

Office of the President

Simmons University

300 The Fenway

Boston, MA 02115