Simmons, Ruth J.

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Simmons, Ruth J.

July 3, 1945

Educator and college president Ruth Jean Simmons was born in Grapevine, Texas, one of twelve children born to Isaac Stubblefield, a farmer and factory worker, and Fannie Stubblefield, a homemaker. After graduating from Dillard University with a B.A. degree in 1967, she studied for a year in France on a Fulbright grant. She returned to earn a master's degree (1970) and doctorate in Romance languages (1973) from Radcliffe College, now part of Harvard University.

From 1970 to 1990 Simmons held a number of positions at such colleges as Radcliffe and the University of New Orleans. She then became assistant dean, then associate dean, first at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, then at Princeton University. From 1990 to 1992 she was provost at Spelman College and then returned to Princeton, where she was vice provost in 1992.

Although she was a candidate for many college president vacancies, Simmons was the unanimous choice among 350 candidates on the Smith College list. In 1995 she was appointed the ninth president of Smith, and when she was inaugurated on September 30, she became the first African-American woman president of a top-ranked college or university in the United States. Her tasks were to lead the institution into the twenty-first century, serve as a scholarly role model for students, develop the faculty, engage in financial planning, and become involved in all aspects of leadership of Smith. Soon after her tenure began, applications for admission poured into the college.

In 2001 Simmons left Smith to become the eighteenth president of Brown University, and the first black woman to preside over an Ivy League college. Highly regarded in academic circles and elsewhere as a capable, vibrant, and dedicated leader, she also holds a seat on the boards of several major U.S. corporations, including Pfizer, Texas Instruments, and investment firm Goldman Sachs.

See also Education


Kantrowitz, Barbara. "Ruth Simmons: President, Brown University." Newsweek (December 31, 2001): 76.

O'Reilly, David. "A Conversation with Ruth Simmons." Philadelphia Inquirer, March 2, 1995.

Simmons, Ruth J. "My Mother's Daughter: Lessons I Learned in Civility and Authenticity." Texas Journal of Ideas, History and Culture (fall/winter 1998).

jessie carney smith (2001)
Updated by publisher 2005

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Simmons, Ruth J.

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