Dr. Ruth Simmons, an accomplished university president with administrative experience in Ivy League schools, a women’s university and a historically black college, has been named interim President of Prairie View A&M University.
Dr. Simmons, who retired as president of Brown University in 2012, will assume her duties July 1, following the June 12 announcement by Prairie View A&M President George Wright that he is stepping down after 14 years to return to teaching history.
“We are fortunate to have such a high-caliber scholar and administrator who can step in without missing a beat,” said Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. “Dr. Simmons has been an important figure on the national stage for decades. She has the credentials to be the president of any university in America. I am so excited to have her join us.”
Dr. Simmons was President of Brown University from 2001 to 2012. When she retired from Brown University, she returned to her hometown of Houston where her family still lives. Prior to her time at Brown, she was President of Smith College, the nation’s largest women’s university; a Vice Provost at Princeton University; and a Provost at Spelman College, a historically black college.
Dr. Simmons, who attended the Houston public schools, attributed her education at Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans, as the pivotal opportunity in her life. She later got her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard University.
“I was from a very poor family with 12 children, at a time when colleges were just desegregating,” Dr. Simmons said. “I know how important historically black colleges and universities are for kids like I was.”
Since retiring, Dr. Simmons said she had turned down other offers, but Prairie View A&M University appealed to her because of its history, its significance and its mission as well as the fact that her brother attended the university.
“I have deep roots in Texas, and I was looking for a way to do something helpful for my community,” she said.
It was important, Dr. Simmons said, to start before the fall semester. Her first order of business will be to meet with the university leadership and learn the issues facing the campus community.
“My task is to listen, and to learn as quickly as I can and get started as quickly as I can,” she said.