Chief Executive Leadership Institute Honors Ruth Simmons, Three-Time University President

Ruth Simmons, president, Prairie View A&M University and president emerita of Brown University and Smith College, accepted the Legend in Leadership Award for Higher Education of the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute (CELI) at a ceremony held at CELI’s fourth Higher Education Leadership Summit on January 29 at the Yale School of Management in Edward P. Evans Hall.

 The Legend in Leadership Award for Higher Education was presented to Ruth Simmons by Richard H. Brodhead, president emeritus of Duke University, and John B. King, Jr., 10th U.S. secretary of education and president of the Education Trust.

Summit organizer Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management, commented, “Ruth Simmons is one of the nation’s most widely admired educators with her inspired leadership as president of Brown University, Smith College, and Prairie View A&M, as well as key roles at Princeton, the University of Southern California, and Spelman College. She has advanced a balance of investing in the frontiers of research while bringing educational opportunities to communities often left behind and guiding the moral societal purpose of each of her institutions.”

Ruth J. Simmons currently serves as president of Prairie View A&M. She was president and professor of comparative literature and Africana studies at Brown University from 2001 to 2012. Under her leadership, Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities.

After completing her PhD in 1973 in Romance languages and literatures at Harvard University, she served in various faculty and administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and Spelman College before her appointment in 1999 as president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the United States. She launched a number of important academic initiatives at Smith, including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college.

The Higher Education Summit theme was Commerce and College: The Business of Higher Education. Distinguished higher education presidents and board chairs from across the U.S. will engage in lively, candid discussions at this invitation-only leaders’ conference hosted by the Yale School of Management. 

 Additional Summit participants included Ned Lamont, 89th governor of Connecticut; Peter Salovey, 23rd president, Yale; Roslyn Clark Artis, 14th president, Benedict College; Robert M. Berdahl, president emeritus, Association of American Universities and 8th chancellor, UC—Berkeley; Joanne Berger-Sweeney, 22nd president, Trinity College; Richard H. Brodhead, president emeritus, Duke University; Robert A. Brown, 10th president, Boston University; James W. Dean, Jr., 20th president, University of New Hampshire; John B. King, Jr., 10th U.S. secretary of education; Gail O. Mellow, president, LaGuardia Community College; Harris Pastides, 28th president, University of South Carolina; John A. Pérez 68th speaker, California Assembly and regent of the University of California; Gregory S. Prince Jr., 4th president, Hampshire College; Christine M. Riordan, 10th president, Adelphi University; Lawrence Schovanec, 17th president, Texas Tech University; Jake B. Schrum, 21st president, Emory & Henry College; John D. Simon, 14th president, Lehigh University; G. Gabrielle Starr, 10th president, Pomona College; Stephen Joel, Trachtenberg, 15th president, The George Washington University; and David Wilson, 12th president, Morgan State University.

The Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute was founded in 1989 to provide original research on top leadership and lively, current educational forums through peer-driven learning for accomplished leaders across a range of sectors. Visit the Yale CELI website for more information.