Dr. Ruth J. Simmons: First Sister to Head a Seven-Sister School

By Townsel, Lisa Jones | Ebony, June 1996 | Go to article overview

Dr. Ruth J. Simmons: First Sister to Head a Seven-Sister School


Townsel, Lisa Jones, Ebony


As a child growing up in rural Grapeland, Texas, Ruth Simmons spent countless hours crouched on the kitchen floor with her four sister as her mother shelled peas, shucked corn and shared stories about people who lived life the right way and people who didn't.

Little did Fannie Stubblefield know at that time that the family values she passed down during those mother-daughter chats would one day become instrumental in shaping the minds of thousands of women--Black and White. For the youngest of her 12 children, Ruth, would make history as the first Black and the third woman to be named president of Smith College, one of the prestigious, all-women's colleges that make up the Seven-Sister schools, and the nation's largest private undergraduate institution for women.

"I remember those talks vividly. That's how she taught us values, not to have too much pride, not to be selfish, and never, never to consider ourselves more important than another human being," Dr. Ruth J. Simmons recalls of the early years when her parents were sharecroppers. "I came along with African-American parents who couldn't read or write all that well, but they brought along traditions from their parents. I would love to live in a world where people are valued on the basis of what qualities they offer as a person, rather than on the means that they happen to have at any given time. Those are the values that I want the students at Smith to understand and appreciate."

Dr. Simmons' family background and expansive professional achievements have prepared her well to pass along such goals. A graduate of Dillard University, she spent her junior year at Wellesley College before returning to Dillard for her senior year and receiving the prestigious Fulbright Fellowship. She later earned a doctorate in romance languages and literature from Harvard University. Over the past 20 years, the seasoned educator, who is fluent in Spanish and French, has authored a book on education in Haiti and has worked on the administrative faculties of the University of New Orleans, California State University (Northridge), the University of Southern California and Spelman College. Before accepting the groundbreaking post as Smith's ninth president, the 51-year-old divorced mother of two held the title of vice provost at another Ivy League institution, Princeton University.

Dr. Simmons believes the deeprooted values and strong sense of self she learned from her parents, the "outstanding African-American teachers" of her youth, and her varied experiences as an adult, have all equipped her with the knowledge, wisdom and fortitude necessary to lead Smith, which has produced such luminaries as Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, Yolanda King and Thelma Golden, the first Black curator of New York's Whitney Museum.

Situated near the Berkshire mountains of Northampton, Mass., Smith College, founded in 1871, is characterized by crawling ivy, wrought-iron gates, a $26,484-a-year tuition-and-board price tag, and time-honored traditions, such as Friday afternoon teas.

The other colleges that make up the elite Seven-Sister schools are Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Vassar and Wellesley.

The reports are conflicting about when Smith first opened its doors to Black women. Some say it was as early as the 1890s. Others say it was in the 1920s. What is known for sure is that the number of African-American faculty members and students at Smith has Historically been dreadfully low.

Twenty percent of the 2,800 Smith students are minority. But only 86 are Black. Of the college's 250 full-time faculty members, only 15 are Black. Ten of the 15 are in tenure-track positions, but only one is tenured.

Minority recruitment, Dr. Simmons says, will be a major focal point during her administration. "That obviously will be one of my main goals," she says. "The reason for that is simply that that is what Smith articulated in the search. And because they stated their strong interest in recruiting minorities, that made the job more appealing to me.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Dr. Ruth J. Simmons: First Sister to Head a Seven-Sister School
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.