Ruth Simmons, who recently stepped down as president of Prairie View A&M University in Texas, will serve as a senior adviser to the president of Harvard University on engagement with historically Black colleges and universities. In this role, which will begin on June 1, Dr. Simmons will advise on efforts to support the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery. Her work will focus on engaging in meaningful and enduring partnerships with the nation’s HBCUs.
Dr. Simmons brings a unique perspective to Harvard’s implementation efforts, having led Brown University’s reckoning with its history of slavery and injustice during her 11-year tenure at the helm of the institution. President Simmons formed the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice to help the community think seriously, deeply, and rigorously about their past, a model that has served as a blueprint for institutions like Harvard that have since also begun to address their own injustices.
“I am proud to work alongside Harvard to shape a new vision for higher education, one which acknowledges the need for institutions with different histories and missions to share expertise and productively collaborate in the interests of a more equitable society,” Dr. Simmons said. “Harvard’s recognition that HBCUs have much to contribute is a welcome and timely message.”
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. She came out of retirement in 2017 to serve as president of Prairie View A&M University.
In addition to her duties at Harvard, Dr. Simmons also will be serving as President’s Distinguished Fellow at Rice University in Houston.
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.