Dr. Ruth Simmons is one of the most impressive people I have had the pleasure of sitting down with. It was such an honor to sit down and have a conversation with such an accomplished individual. Further, Dr. Simmons is more than just a preeminent professional in the field of higher education. She is also. a trailblazer and a historically significant individual. I hope you enjoy this interview, that I believe will go down as one of the most important I have done thus far and most likely will ever do.
Ruth J. Simmons was appointed 8th President of Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) in December 2017. She is the first woman to hold the presidency at PVAMU. Prior to taking on the top administrator role at PVAMU, Simmons served as President of Brown University from 2001-2012, becoming the first African American to lead an Ivy League institution. Under Simmons’ leadership, Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities.
A French professor before entering university administration, Simmons held an
appointment as a Professor of Africana Studies at Brown. After completing her Ph.D. in
Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard, she served in various faculty and
administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and
Spelman College before becoming president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the United States. At Smith, she launched a number of important academic initiatives, including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college.
Simmons is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to France, the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the 2002 Fulbright lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the boards of FCA and Square, as well as a number of non-profit boards. Awarded numerous honorary degrees, she received the Brown Faculty’s highest honor: the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal in 2011. In 2012, she was named ‘chevalier’ of the French Legion of Honor.