Leigh Anne Sims Ivey ’12 Scholarship honors alumna, daughter, wife, and friend

Apr 19, 2022

Leigh Anne Sims Ivey ’12 — a daughter, a wife, a friend, a Peace alumna, and a coworker — how does one start to tell the story of who she was?

Is it by her appearance? She had chocolate brown hair, timeless style, and a warm smile.

Is it by her personality? Seemingly quiet at first, when she opened up to someone she could be hilarious. She was thoughtful, compassionate, smart, and was full of adoration for her Schnoodle, Frankie.

Or, is it by her work? A talented Senior UX Designer at Red Hat, Inc, she traveled the world for her job. She had an eye for design and was loved by her coworkers.

But, words can’t quite capture who she was. And now, Leigh Anne isn’t here to share her story.

A Legacy at William Peace University

In January 2021, Leigh Anne passed away at age 34 suddenly from a brain aneurysm rupture. “Her life was cut short”, Celia Sims, Leigh Anne’s mom, said. “Leigh Anne had become a successful and confident graphic design artist who was compassionate about those around her.”

Her family, friends, and extended family want her legacy and memory to live on.

To do just that, they courageously established the Leigh Anne Sims Ivey ’12 Scholarship Fund in Fall 2021 at WPU. The scholarship is designated for a junior or senior that is majoring in visual arts or a design-related field to ease their financial need.

The student should contribute to the WPU campus and surrounding communities through kindness and compassion, like Leigh Anne did. Although not a specific criterion of this scholarship award, the Leigh Anne’s family and friends intended to recognize and support students who, like Leigh Anne, have a passion for learning and using their talents to give back and pay it forward to those around them.

“Our hope in establishing this memorial scholarship is that we keep Leigh Anne’s memory alive. It will help to lessen the financial worry for a deserving student at WPU,” Sims said. “Her desire to complete her degree program to ensure she would acquire the best possible job opportunity in her chosen field is what she would want for all students. She genuinely cared for others.”

Sims explained that WPU was where Leigh Anne first found her confidence — she found herself at Peace. The scholarship is a way to help others find the confidence Leigh Anne found through the campus community and her classes.

Leigh Anne first attended Peace in 2004; however, she felt unsure about what she wanted to study. After a photography class piqued her interest, she then transferred to Randolph Community College. She soon discovered she preferred the design aspect. Realizing how much she missed Raleigh, she enrolled in Wake Technical Community College to complete an associate degree in graphic design.

After two years of working in the field, Leigh Anne wanted to further her knowledge and career opportunities through a bachelor’s degree. She was drawn back to Peace. “It was at Peace that she was able to prosper and be all she could be,” Celia said.

Leigh Anne was proud to have been welcomed back and quickly dedicated herself to her studies — she was serious about being a successful designer after graduating. When she graduated, she worked first at Ansibel, and then advanced to the role of Senior UX Designer at Red Hat, Inc.

“Realizing her full potential was made possible by all of her professors, instructors, and friends at Peace,” Sims said. “She was so very proud to have graduated from her first choice.”

Life-long Friendships

Caroline “Cary” Allman Schmid ‘08, Vice President at McKeeman Communications, was the one who first suggested Leigh Anne go to Peace.

Schmid grew up with Leigh Anne — they were neighbors, classmates, and bus buddies. In middle and high school, they bonded over a love of music and their unique sense of humor. They filled their teenage years with sleepovers, watching bad horror flicks and sneaking off to music shows.

Before high school graduation, Schmid suggested that they go to Peace together and be suitemates. That first year they spent their time exploring Raleigh, studying and watching reality TV together.

However, Leigh Anne felt unsure about what she wanted to pursue. “She was still toying around with what she wanted to do. She was always a very artistic person,” Schmid said.

Even after Peace, their friendship continued to grow. “She was the only person I could spend an hour on the phone with,” Schmid said. They still went to concerts together, had movie nights, porch happy hours and always laughed a lot.

Leigh Anne would often text Schmid pictures of outfit ensembles asking for advice or if the style was too much. “She was an amazing dresser with fashion-forward, yet always classic outfits,” Schmid said. “She had a drive to continue to define her aesthetic in multiple aspects of her life.”

Leigh Anne wanted to use her style skills for others. She donated her time to Dress for Success, a not-for-profit organization that empowers women through support, professional attire and development tools. After her passing, Leigh Anne’s clothes were donated to the nonprofit. Outside of her volunteerism, she would use her design skills to make programs or unique presents for others. She genuinely cared for those around her.

“I still struggle with her being gone today — Her death came out of nowhere. I can’t go back and listen to her voicemails,” Schmid said. “When she passed, she was finally coming into her own.”

Always outdoing herself

Leigh Anne’s husband, Richard “Rich” Ivey had seen Leigh Anne open up a lot since he first met her. He met Leigh Anne when she was 21 after two friends “set them up.”

Shy at first, he explained that when you got to know her, she was hilarious and caring.  “I thought she was way out of my league. When we started talking, though, it was nice and easy. We quickly became attached and inseparable,” Ivey said. He and Leigh Anne were married in 2013.

Leigh Anne was just one of those people that took a while to open up. If you did get to know her, you would learn about the snow globe she collected from each place she visited, or about how her devoted Schnoodle, Frankie, followed her to many of these destinations. Leigh Anne was adventurous, hiking on the weekends and spending New Year’s Eve in a new place each year.

One of the things that stood out about Leigh Anne was her style — she kept up with designers and would travel to fashion exhibits. “She had style for days and was always the best-dressed person in the room,” Ivey said. “The thing is, even though she was always dressed to the nines, Leigh Anne hated attention and hated having her picture taken. It’s funny how that all worked out.”

Her love of style wove into her creative side. She was a talented designer who always went the extra mile to do her work. In fact, it seemed to Ivey that at every stage of life, Leigh Anne had some sort of internal drive pushing her to do better.

“She always wanted to outdo herself and see how far she could go, I didn’t understand how she could be so driven,” he said. “She was kind and funny and smart and beautiful and hard-working and way too humble to admit a single one of those things.”

Caring for her Colleagues

A Senior UX Designer at Red Hat, Inc., Leigh Anne worked at the company for five years. After her death, her coworkers compiled a presentation filled with more than 40 quotes to show a glimpse of the impact Leigh Anne had there.

The PowerPoint hoped to share the mark Leigh Anne’s presence made in the company and the lives of those that worked there. Her colleagues described her as kind, funny, and deeply caring to those around her.

“She proved herself to be generous, thoughtful, insightful, genuine, and hilariously witty. There was no subject that was off-limits just like there was no task too large or too small for her to confront with her considerable talents. She lived the best of what we should all aspire to be,” said colleague Scott Sellers. “She made me feel at home and drove me to be better through her relentless pursuit of excellence and caring about others. I will forever hear that laugh echo in my head and marvel at the size of her heart.”

Colleague Gretchen Miller explained she noticed that Leigh Anne carried herself with confidence and grace at work. “She knew herself and what she wanted. She was determined, diligent and embodied the ideal characteristics of a teammate,” Miller said. “In the days and years to come, I will remember her with a deep sense of gratitude as she was a pinnacle example of the kind of person I want to be.”

Many of her colleagues noticed how Leigh Anne always went out her way to show appreciation and genuine care for them.

“More than anything, what stood out to me is that if you did anything, even the smallest thing, to help her out in any way, she would make you feel like you just made a huge difference,” said Ruben Moreno, a colleague of Leigh Anne at Red Hat, Inc. “She was always ready with an enthusiastic, genuine thank you and a smile.”

Instilling Confidence in Others 

While Lochlyn Gamble ’23 never met Leigh Anne, Gamble is the first to be impacted by Leigh Anne’s legacy. Gamble, a communications major with a focus in graphic design, has a similar story to Leigh Anne’s. He started out his college career with a different degree and was unsure of his passion but found it in design.

In a previous semester, he dropped out of classes early due to difficulties from the pandemic and finances. However, the Leigh Anne Sims Ivey ’12 Scholarship made the decision to come back to campus so much easier.

“I would like to thank Leigh Anne’s family and friends for helping this transition and making this decision so much easier. Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t be here finishing my education right now,” Gamble said. “It means so much that I can keep learning and that I can help keep her memory alive.”

Peace has helped Gamble find who he is and build his confidence. The support of faculty and staff have helped Gamble through several difficult semesters and given him the confidence needed to persevere.

“If I had to share one thing I learned at Peace, it would be having confidence in myself. I was never the most confident in my work, I would always hesitate to show it,” Gamble said. “But now, after working so closely with the professors and other students, I learned that there’s nothing to be afraid of. You’ll only move forward if you have the confidence to do so.”

Leigh Anne Sims Ivey ’12 Memorial Scholarship

Donate now to the Leigh Anne Sims Ivey Scholarship. The income from this fund is awarded to a junior or senior majoring in visual arts or a design-related program with demonstrated financial need. Use the button below and designate your gift to “other” noting the “Leigh Anne Sims Ivey ’12 Scholarship” in the comments.

Give Courageously to Peace

Thanks to the generosity of William Peace University supporters, current and future WPU students have access to the resources needed to learn through immersive experiences, build upon their courage and develop the confidence needed to turn passion into purpose.
Roses float in the campus fountain after an alumni event.
a student uses a laptop on a green bench at William Peace University

Give Now

Support future Pacer success. 

 

Become a Corporate Partner

Find out how your organization can collaborate with Peace.

Visitors

Whether you’re hoping to attend WPU or hosting an event, you’re welcome to visit WPU! 

Wedding at WPU
Phantom in downtown Raleigh

Conferences and Events

Host your conference, event, or wedding at WPU.

Location and Directions

Get directions, our address, a campus map, and hotel discount information.

Counselors

Learn about WPU and all it has to offer so you can guide your students to the best fit for their next step. 

Admissions Info

Meet and connect with our Admissions team.

Schedule a Visit

Learn about our processes and schedule a visit.

Alumni

Our success as an institution has always been rooted in the strength of our community. As an integral part of that community, we invite alumni to stay informed and connected. 

Alumni outside at WPU
Roses float in the campus fountain after an alumni event.
Building at WPU

Get Involved

Stay connected to Peace.

Donate

Contribute to the success of future Pacers.

General Info

Read about alumni benefits.

Parents

Families are an integral part of a student’s path to WPU. Find answers to your questions here. 

Commencement
Two WPU students work together on a project during class

Student Success: Why Choose WPU?

Learn about the value of an education at WPU.

Billing and Due Dates

Questions about your student’s enrollment or billing? Start here.

Current Students

Already a Pacer? Here’s your quick path to information, links, and other useful stuff.

Group of students talking
Students high-fiving each other

Current Students

Missing something? Can’t find a link? Start here.

Current Parents and Families

Is your student a Pacer? Here’s where to get information and contacts.

Future Students

Welcome to William Peace University! We offer programs for both traditional undergraduate students and online/hybrid classes through our School of Professional Studies. Find your path to WPU here.

Three WPU students walk through a brick archway on campus.
Three students discuss their work during class.
Older gentleman at a computer

First Time in College

Your WPU education will help you build practical skills for your future.

Transfer Students

Transfer up to 90 credit hours from any institution. 

Working Professionals

Enhance your existing career.

A WPU student works on a video game in the new esports and gaming lab on campus.
Woman in army green typing at computer
Two female international students

Readmission

If you previously attended WPU and are ready to return, start here. 

Veteran/Military

Learn more about how to apply the GI bill.

International Students

Find out how to attend WPU.

Student Life

Whether you want to know more about on-campus events or see our residence halls, get a sense of what life is like as a student at WPU.

WPU Student on bouncy slide
A WPU student sits with his friends while eating at Belk dining hall.
WPU Safety Officer

Clubs, Activities and Events

Discover what’s fun at WPU.

Housing & Dining

When people say that WPU “feels like home,” we think that’s the ultimate compliment.

Safety & Security

The Office of Public Safety is committed to providing a community-friendly approach to enhancing campus safety for students, faculty and staff.

Dining room at Peace
A WPU student sits with his friends while eating at Belk dining hall.
Health and wellness at WPU

Athletics

Cheer on your Pacers at their next home game.

Student Support Services

Find out how the WPU team supports the whole you.

Health and Wellness

Learn about physical and mental health services available to students.

Academics

WPU offers a mix of more than 30 degree programs and additional minors. Our courses are four credit hours each, and every course features immersive learning experiences.

A student in WPU's online School of Professional Studies works on her homework.
2023 Internship Showcase

Immersive Learning

Find out about WPU’s unique approach to learning.

Center for Student Success

Peer tutoring, a first-year success program, and an internship program are just part of why Pacers succeed. 

Admissions

Start here to find out how to apply, visit, and learn more about WPU.

Before you apply:

Admissions team
students walking on campus
A student reviews scholarship and payment information in the financial aid office.

Connect with an Admission Couneslor

They’ll be your guide through the process.

Visit Campus

Get a feel for campus life.

Understand Costs

Find out about Financial aid and other options to pay for college.