BREAKING NEWS: Simmons gives 10 months notice

In an email to the Brown community this morning, President Ruth Simmons announced her plans to step down from the Brown Presidency at the end of the current academic year.  Simmons, Brown’s 18th and the first female African-American president in the Ivy League, plans to officially cease her position in June 2012.

The impetus for Simmons’ resignation is unclear. In a mass email to the Brown community, she wrote that she “recently decided that this is the ideal time both for Brown and for me personally to begin the process of transitioning to new leadership.” Simmons went on to write that she plans to return to teaching at Brown as a professor in the departments of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies “after a leave, during which [she] will take up projects that have been on hold far too long.” Read more, including Simmons’ full email to the Brown community, after the jump. 

Since she assumed the presidency in October 2001, she has implemented need-blind admission standards, raised over $1.6 billion, opened a new med school building in the Jewelry District, and enjoyed the revival of Brown University’s positioning in the national eye.  Ruth has enjoyed a cult-like support for her position, often holding astronomical approval ratings due to her open office hours, her willingness to interact with students on a personal basis, and her general charisma.

Personally, Simmons’ own finances suggest shrewdness. According to the New York Times article published in 2010, Simmons “was paid $323,539 last year for her work on the board, and will soon leave her position at Goldman with stock that is currently worth about $4.3 million. That was on top of her salary at Brown, which was $576,000 this year.” Simmons also served on the boards of Texas Instruments and Pfizer but has since resigned.

Simmons was chosen by Time Magazine as America’s best college president in 2001 after only a year in office. A highly-decorated academic, she is considered to be one of the most powerful figures in the American political theatre, as indicated by U.S. News and World Report, which listed her among the top U.S. leaders in 2007. She currently serves as a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, after a nomination from President Obama.

Dear Members of the Brown Community:

I write to you today in all humility to tell you of my plans to step down from the Brown presidency at the end of the current academic year and to thank you in advance for what will have been eleven deeply satisfying years at the helm of this wonderful institution.  While it was my original intention to retire at the end of ten years of service, I was dissuaded from doing so by Corporation officers.  However, after much thought, I recently decided that this is the ideal time both for Brown and for me personally to begin the process of transitioning to new leadership.

The Corporation will soon describe the presidential search design and timeline.  As we all await that announcement, we can be confident that Brown is positioned well to attract an able and inspiring leader.  Under new leadership the University will continue on its strong upward trajectory by making bold choices, hewing to principles of equity and justice, and providing unique and rigorous programs that beckon to those seeking an education for tomorrow’s challenges.

We should derive great satisfaction from the state of Brown today.  With an outstanding and considerably enlarged faculty, the University is steadily improving its already impressive scholarly, teaching and research profile.  The graduate and medical schools have made significant strides in recent years; a much improved financial aid program enables the selection of outstanding and diverse students from the largest and most competitive admission pools in our history; and the University has committed to new state of the art facilities and important infrastructure improvements.  These enhancements have been made possible by the devoted engagement and generosity of alumni, donors and friends who faithfully support the University’s highest priorities.  In addition, excellent and inclusive governance, a superb administrative team, dedicated staff, and rigorous planning advance the University’s mission in a consistently effective manner.

Following this academic year, I hope to continue to be of service to the Corporation and the new president to the extent they deem it useful.  While my term as president will end on June 30, 2012, I will continue at Brown as Professor of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies.  Following a leave, during which I will take up projects that have been on hold far too long, I will enthusiastically return to teaching, an endeavor that also gives me enormous satisfaction.

My work at Brown has been the most satisfying of a long and, from my perspective, nearly idyllic career.  I began life in circumstances that argued against the possibility that I could ever attend college.  That financial aid enabled my desire not only to get a college education but also to devote my life to extending that same opportunity to others has been a benefaction of incomparable personal meaning. I shall neither forget nor minimize in any way the import of Brown’s decision to name me president.  I only hope that my efforts over these years have been sufficient to repay this community for the honor and joy I derive from being able to lead this unique and distinguished university.

I extend to all members of this community my thanks and good wishes for a successful academic year.

Ruth J. Simmons


  1. Ethan Skinner

    A scholar of Dillard University*

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