Director of Marketing
CLASS OF 1999
Athena Sarris Simms is like chocolate—impossible not to love—and, appropriately, her family’s company, Sarris Candies, makes some of the best. Since graduating from W&J, Simms has been influential in the growth and recognition of the multi-million dollar candy company. If you tried to attach a descriptive title to her position with Sarris, you might come up with something like “director of marketing and sales supervisor as well as catalog producer and editor along with Web site designer and anything else you need her to be.” Of course, an easier way to say this would be “Jack of all trades,” which is exactly how she describes herself. When Simms began work at Sarris, the company needed just a handful of people to take orders, even at the busiest times. Now, even during the summer months, a slow time for any candy company, Sarris has a staff of 20 people to field orders for their delicious confections.
Simms completed most of her college education at Duquesne University , but transferred to W&J for her last three semesters. “I was shocked to find out how quickly I was accepted,” Simms says. “For example, I was elected to homecoming court only six weeks after I started going to W&J.” Because of the size of the school, W&J felt much more like a family to Simms. Dr. John Gregor, professor of business, was her mentor. He and other professors gave her personal attention and got to know her outside of the classroom. Simms discovered that “at W&J, everything is on a first-name basis. You’re not just a number, so you look forward to classes.”
The high quality of her W&J education made Simms feel prepared for entering the world of big business and made her confident that she could succeed. “The level of education at W&J far exceeds that of any other small college,” she says. Simms feels that her W&J education prepared her to change careers and succeed in any environment. But rest assured, she has no plans to leave the family business—we all will be enjoying her delicious chocolate and candies for years to come.