Ruth Simmons (Prairie View A&M University)

Ruth Simmons, who retired as president of the Ivy League’s Brown University in 2012, has been named interim president of Prairie View A&M University in Texas, replacing President George Wright, who announced on June 12 that he would be stepping down after 14 years to return to teaching history.

In a statement published on the Prairie View A&M website, Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said, “We are fortunate to have such a high-caliber scholar and administrator who can step in without missing a beat. Dr. Simmons has been an important figure on the national stage for decades. She has the credentials to be the president of any university in America. I am happy to have her join us.”

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Simmons was the first-ever black president of an Ivy League university, the Houston Chronicle reports. She is a native of Houston and returned there after her retirement from Brown in 2012.

Simmons attended Houston public schools before matriculating at Dillard University. She later earned a Ph.D. in romance languages and literatures from Harvard University.

Prior to Brown, Simmons was president of the nation’s largest women’s liberal arts college, Smith College. She was previously a vice provost at Princeton University and a provost at Spelman College.

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“I was from a very poor family with 12 children, at a time when colleges were just desegregating,” Simmons said. “I know how important historically black colleges and universities are for kids like I was.”

Simmons said that she has turned down previous offers during her retirement, but Prairie View A&M appealed to her because of its history, its significance and its mission, as well as the fact that her brother attended the school.

Simmons will assume her duties July 1.

Read more at Prairie View A&M and the Houston Chronicle.