Ruth Simmons

Brown University
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Educational and Academic Leadership
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Ruth J. Simmons served as the 18th president of Brown University from July 2001 to July 2012. She continues to serve as Professor of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies at Brown. Her research has focused on the works of David Diop and Aime Cesaire. During her tenure at Brown, Simmons created an ambitious set of initiatives designed to expand and strengthen the faculty; increased financial support and resources for undergraduate, graduate, and medical students; improved facilities; renewed a broad commitment to shared governance; and ensured that diversity informs every dimension of the university. In 2003 Simmons established the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice to examine this complex history and make recommendations for how the university might approach the relevant issues. The Committee issued its landmark report in 2007. She had been president of Smith College from 1995 until the time of her appointment at Brown. In 1983, after serving as associate dean of the graduate school at the University of Southern California, Simmons joined the Princeton University administration. She remained at Princeton for seven years, leaving in 1990 for two years to serve as provost at Spelman College, returning to Princeton in 1992 as vice provost. In 1993, invited by the president to review the state of race relations on the Princeton campus, Simmons wrote a report that resulted in a number of initiatives that received widespread attention. In 1995 she left Princeton to become president of Smith College, the largest women's college in the United States, where she launched a number of strategic initiatives to strengthen the college's academic programs and inaugurated the first engineering program at a U.S. women's college. Simmons is a member of the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Active in a wide range of educational, charitable, and civic endeavors, she holds honorary degrees from numerous colleges and universities. In 1997 she was awarded the Centennial Medal from Harvard University, in 1999 the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service from Columbia University, and in 2001 the President's Award from the United Negro College Fund. She has been honored with the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal and the 2002 "Drum Major for Justice" education award from Southern Christian Leadership Conference/WOMEN. In 2004 she received the ROBIE Humanitarian Award, given by the Jackie Robinson Foundation; the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal; and the chairman's award of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. In 2001 Time magazine named her America's best college president. Simmons received the B.A. degree (1967)from Dillard University, and the A.M. (1973) and Ph.D. (1973) in Romance languages and literatures from Harvard University.

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