Ruth J. Simmons
1967 Fulbright U.S. Student to France
As a student, Dr. Simmons received a scholarship at Dillard University, an HBCU in New Orleans, before traveling to Lyon, France as a Fulbright student of French language and culture. Returning to the United States, she earned a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literature from Harvard University. Simmons has served in many capacities in her career: as a professor and dean at the University of New Orleans, provost of Spelman College, and vice provost of Princeton University.
When she was named president of Smith College in 1995, she became one of the first African American women to head a U.S. college or university and created the first women’s college engineering program in the United States. When she became president of Brown in 2001, Simmons was the first African American president of an Ivy League institution at Brown, going on to earn Time Magazine’s accolade as America’s Best College President. Most recently, Dr. Simmons served as the president of Prairie View A&M University, continuing her long-standing support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
In cooperation with Santander Bank, she established Brown International Advanced Research Institutes to convene a rising generation of scholars from developing countries to address pressing global issues. For her teaching, advising, and leadership, she has received more than 30 honorary degrees and many other prominent awards, including CBS’s Woman of the Year, the National Urban League Achievement Award, the President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Fulbright Association’s Lifetime Achievement Medal, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Simmons to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.