As John Brown University's student body continued to grow over the years, so did the need for cafeteria space. The Mabee Cafeteria was built in 1973, when JBU’s on-campus student body consisted of 435 students. In 2012, with over 940 students in campus housing, the cafeteria was highly congested. In addition to the expanding student body, the cafeteria space is in high demand for hosting alumni and visitor events.
Although the cafeteria underwent renovations in 2008, funds were not available to expand the area until 2012, when an anonymous lead gift of $4 million was given to the University. This anonymous gift was given to kick start funding for a new banquet facility and new Northslope Apartments, projects.
“The Great Hall is a wonderful facility for gatherings and fellowship for JBU students and our Northwest Arkansas community,” said Dr. Chip Pollard, president. “We have enormous gratitude for the anonymous lead gift that got this project started.”
The facility was informally dubbed the "Great Hall" until August 2012, when the University officially broke ground to begin construction. During the ceremony, the University announced the facility's official name: the Simmons Great Hall.
Through their family business, Mark Simmons and the Simmons family have contributed to and greatly influenced the poultry industry and business community, and have been long time supporters of John Brown University.
Mark Simmons has faithfully served on the JBU Board of Trustees for 27 years. He has invested his time as a civic leader and his means into the communities of Northwest Arkansas, Northeast Oklahoma, and the broader region for many years.
The Simmons Great Hall was built adjacent to the Kresge Dining Hall and is accessible for daily overflow from the cafeteria. The 17,000-square foot banquet hall seats approximately 500 people, has modern audio/visual presentation equipment, and features the ability to be divided into three separate rooms. Also, non-JBU events normally held in the Kresge Dining Hall are able to be held in the Simmons Great Hall, avoiding the displacement of students during meal times.
John Brown University is a private Christian university, ranked No. 1 Best Value among Southern regional colleges by U.S. News & World Report and is listed as one of America's Best Colleges by Forbes. JBU enrolls more than 2,400 students from 40 states and 39 countries. JBU is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.