Ruth J. Simmons is president of Prairie View A&M University. She was president and professor of comparative literature and Africana studies at Brown University from 2001-2012. Under her leadership, Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities.
After completing her Ph.D. in romance languages and literatures at Harvard University, she served in various faculty and administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and Spelman College before her appointment in 1999 as president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the United States. She launched a number of important academic initiatives at Smith, 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, and the Foreign Policy Association Medal. She is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations. She serves on boards including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Square, as well as nonprofit boards including the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In 2012, the president of France named her a “chevalier” of the French Legion of Honor.