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Esteemed academic leader Dr. Ruth Simmons will join the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Board of Directors next month.


Dr. Ruth Simmons, esteemed academic leader and recognized champion for inclusion in education, has been elected to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Board of Directors. Simmons will join the Board for its June meeting.

“Wise judgment and path-breaking leadership are exemplified by no one more than Ruth Simmons,” said Board Chair Martha Minow. “Her deep experience in higher education, public policy, philanthropy, and institutional governance will strengthen the work of our Board and the entire Foundation.”

Simmons is a president’s distinguished fellow at Rice University and senior adviser to the president of Harvard on engagement of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), advising on efforts to support the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery. She most recently served as president of Prairie View A&M University and is president emerita of Smith College and Brown University, where she became the first Black female president of an Ivy League school.

“Underscoring Ruth’s storied career is an unwavering devotion to diversity, inclusion, and racial justice,” said MacArthur President John Palfrey. “She shares the Foundation’s values and we know that her insights will further our commitment to justice.”

“Underscoring Ruth’s storied career is an unwavering devotion to diversity, inclusion, and racial justice.”

Currently, Simmons is a member of the Council of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston and the Alley Theatre. She chairs the Board of the Houston Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and she was the founding chair and is a current member of the Governing Board of the Holdsworth Center, which supports public school leadership in Texas. Simmons is member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Simmons, originally from Texas, received a bachelor’s degree from Dillard University and a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard. Earlier in her career, she held various faculty and administrative positions at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and Spelman College.

Among many honors earned throughout her career, Simmons has received a Fulbright Fellowship to France, a Danforth Fellowship, the President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. Brown University honored her earlier this year by renaming the Study of Slavery and Justice Center, born out of recommendations following a landmark report commissioned by Simmons to examine the institution’s historical ties to slavery, the Ruth J. Simmons Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice Center.

Simmons joins eleven other members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. MacArthur’s Board sets policies and strategy for the Foundation; approves grantmaking areas, initiatives, and grants; and oversees investments and the audit process.