Ruth Simmons

Ruth Simmons smiles as the academic hood is placed over her head

An honorary degree is bestowed upon Ruth Simmons at the 2024 Graduate Commencement ceremony.

Doctor of Humane Letters

Acclaimed academic administrator Ruth J. Simmons is a President’s Distinguished Fellow at Rice University and a senior adviser to the president of Harvard University on HBCU initiatives.

She has served as president of Prairie View A&M University, Brown University (where she was the first African American president of an Ivy League institution), and Smith College. Under her leadership, Prairie View was reclassified as an R2 research university, and Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities.

Simmons is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to France; the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund; the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Award; the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal; the Foreign Policy Association Medal; the Ellis Island Medal of Honor; the Centennial Medal from Harvard University; and the Brown faculty’s highest honor, the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal. In 2012, she was named a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor.

Simmons is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the boards of the MacArthur Foundation, Morehouse College, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Holdsworth Center, and Hines Global Income Trust.