Ruth J. Simmons, former president of both Brown University and Smith College, will deliver the Commencement address to the Bryn Mawr College Class of 2016 and degree candidates from its two graduate schools at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, 2016.
Simmons served as the president of Brown from 2001-2012 and was the first African-American president of an Ivy League institution. Under her leadership, Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities.
A French professor before entering university administration, Simmons held an appointment as a Professor of Africana Studies at Brown. After completing her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and literatures at Harvard, she served in various faculty and administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and Spelman College before becoming president of Smith College. At Smith, she launched a number of important academic initiatives, including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college.
“Ruth Simmons’s visionary leadership and her ability to enact critical change across multiple institutions facing different kinds of challenges make her an ideal candidate to address the Class of 2016,” Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy said in making the announcement.
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 Medal, the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the boards of Texas Instruments, Chrysler, Mondelez and Square, as well as a number of non-profit boards. Awarded numerous honorary degrees, she received the Brown Faculty’s highest honor: the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal in 2011. In 2012, she was named a "chevalier" of the French Legion of Honor.