ABWW Heroine of the Day: Dr. Ruth J. Simmons

Ruth J. Simmons was sworn in as the 18th president of Brown University on July 3, 2001. Brown is one of the most prestigious schools in the world and the irony is that a major chunk of the endowment to start the school was from profits from the slave trade.

A French professor before entering university administration, President Simmons also holds an appointment as a professor of comparative literature and of Africana Studies at Brown. She graduated from Dillard University in New Orleans and completed her Ph.D. in Romance languages and literatures at Harvard. She served in various 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 initiatives including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college.

Simmons is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship, the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, and the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal. She has been a featured speaker in many public venues, including the White House, the World Economic Forum, the National Press Club, the American Council on Education, and the Phi Beta Kappa Lecture at Harvard University. She is a member of the Howard University Board of Trustees, serves on the Board of Directors of Texas Instruments, and has been awarded numerous honorary degrees. Read more about her on her wiki

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