Last spring Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University in Texas, announced that she planned to retire on June 1, 2023. Now Dr. Simmons has said she will step down from her post at the end of February.
In a statement to the university community, President Simmons said that “it is with great sadness that I write to inform you that I will leave my position as president of Prairie View A&M University. No one is more surprised than I by this premature end to my tenure. Indeed, I had counted on working assiduously to assure the success of my successor by completing in full and as ably as I can my responsibilities as president. However, I was informed recently that I could only continue as president with limited presidential authority. My immediate response was that I could not and would not agree to being president in name only. No enduring good can arise from subservience to low standards and expectations. I cannot now become a leader accepting lowered expectations.”
In response, John Sharpe, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, said that “when presidents in the Texas A&M University System announce they are leaving, they cannot hire senior staff or deans except on an interim basis, so that the new president can choose the leadership team he or she will be working with during their term. This decade-long policy applies to all of our presidents. I informed Dr. Simmons that we will not make exceptions to this policy and she chose to resign.”
Dr. Simmons came out of retirement in 2017 to lead the historically Black university. Dr. Simmons served as the eighteenth president of Brown University, the Ivy League educational institution in Providence, Rhode Island, from 2001 to 2012. Before becoming president of Brown University, Dr. Simmons was president of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Earlier, she was vice provost at Princeton University in New Jersey and provost at Spelman College in Atlanta.
Dr. Simmons is a native of Houston and is a product of the city’s public school system. She is a graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans and holds a Ph.D. in Romance languages and literatures from Harvard University.
Update: Rice University in Houston announced that Dr. Simmons will join the university as a President’s Distinguished Fellow, effective April 1. In this role, Dr. Simmons will work with a variety of programs across campus and advise the president’s office on various matters, in addition to collaborating with faculty and staff to build out programs for students to develop future leaders at Rice.