PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas - Prairie View A&M University has named Ruth Simmons its interim president a week after George Wright announced that he would be stepping down to return to the faculty, according to the school.
Simmons became the first black president of an Ivy League university when she took the job at Brown in 2001. She held the position for 11 years.
Simmons has been retired since 2012. She will assume her duties July 1.
“We are fortunate to have such a high-caliber scholar and administrator who can step in without missing a beat,” said Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. “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 so excited to have her join us.”
After retiring, Simmons returned to her hometown of Houston, where her family still lives.
“I have deep roots in Texas, and I was looking for a way to do something helpful for my community,” she said. “My task is to listen, and to learn as quickly as I can and get started as quickly as I can.”
Prior to her time at Brown, Simmons was president of Smith College, the nation’s largest women’s university; a vice provost at Princeton University; and a provost at Spellman College, a historically black college.
Simmons attended the Houston public schools, according to a news release from the school.
“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.”
Since retiring, Simmons said she turned down other offers, but Prairie View A&M University appealed to her because of its history, its significance and its mission. The fact that her brother attended the university certainly helped, as well.
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