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.”
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.
“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.