Regents name former Ivy League president as interim leader of Prairie View A&M

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX)- Dr. Ruth Simmons, an accomplished university president with administrative experience in Ivy League schools, a women’s university and a historically black college, has been named interim President of Prairie View A&M University.

Dr. Simmons, who retired as president of Brown University in 2012, will assume her duties July 1, following the June 12 announcement by Prairie View A&M President George Wright that he is stepping down after 14 years to return to teaching history.

“We are fortunate to have such a high-caliber scholar and administrator who can step in without missing a beat,” said Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. “Dr. Simmons has been an important figure on the national stage for decades. She has the credentials to be the president of any university in America. I am so excited to have her join us.”

Dr. Simmons was President of Brown University from 2001 to 2012. When she retired from Brown University, she returned to her hometown of Houston where her family still lives. Prior to her time at Brown, she was President of Smith College, the nation’s largest women’s university; a Vice Provost at Princeton University; and a Provost at Spellman College, a historically black college.

Dr. Simmons, who attended the Houston public schools, attributed her education at Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans, as the pivotal opportunity in her life. She later got her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard University.

“I was from a very poor family with 12 children, at a time when colleges were just desegregating,” Dr. Simmons said. “I know how important historically black colleges and universities are for kids like I was.”
Since retiring, Dr. Simmons said she had turned down other offers, but Prairie View A&M University appealed to her because of its history, its significance and its mission as well as the fact that her brother attended the university.

“I have deep roots in Texas, and I was looking for a way to do something helpful for my community,” she said.

It was important, Dr. Simmons said, to start before the fall semester. Her first order of business will be to meet with the university leadership and learn the issues facing the campus community.

“My task is to listen, and to learn as quickly as I can and get started as quickly as I can,” she said.

Other Texas A&M University System news

The Board of Regents of The Texas A&M University System on Monday named Dr. Kelly M. Quintanilla as the sole finalist to be President of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Dr. Quintanilla has served as Interim President since January.

Chancellor John Sharp said he expects Dr. Quintanilla to oversee continued growth of enrollment and research at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, while also increasing academic offerings.

“I have always been impressed by Dr. Quintanilla’s intellect, work ethic and dedication to serving the University and the Coastal Bend,” Chancellor Sharp said. “I think we can expect Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to continue to make great strides under the leadership of Dr. Quintanilla.”

Dr. Quintanilla expressed gratitude and excitement about the Board’s decision.

“I have been privileged to spend the last 23 years working alongside faculty, staff, community and legislative partners to serve Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi,” Dr. Quintanilla said. “I am grateful to the search committee members, Chancellor Sharp, and the A&M System Board of Regents for selecting me to serve in this important leadership role.”

Dr. Quintanilla has filled several roles at the Island University since 1994. Dr. Quintanilla has served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Additionally, she was Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Director of the School of Arts, Media & Communication. She also chaired the Department of Communication and Theatre, and she was a professor of communication for 16 years, teaching courses in Business & Professional Communication, Teamwork & Leadership, Organizational Communication, Public Relations and Public Speaking.

She holds a Ph.D. in Communication from Pennsylvania State University.

Active in her local community, Dr. Quintanilla has served as a board member for the Art Museum of South Texas, the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra and the Harbor Playhouse. She is also the mother a teenage daughter.