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Ruth J. Simmons, whose 1995 appointment as Smith's ninth president was hailed as an historic moment in higher education, will assume the presidency of Brown University on July 1, 2001.

The appointment was announced today by Stephen Robert, chancellor of Brown's board of trustees.
The first African-American president of a Seven Sister college, Simmons now earns the distinction of being the first woman president of Brown and the first African American to head an Ivy League university.

Under Simmons' leadership Smith has undertaken extensive developments in its programs and infrastructure that have greatly enriched students' experiences and raised standards for quality and access in higher education nationwide. A committed and outspoken advocate for diversity in higher education, Simmons has worked to ensure that the high-quality education offered at private colleges such as Smith is accessible to students from all economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds.

"Ruth Simmons has provided outstanding leadership for Smith and we will be very sad to see her leave," said Shelly Lazarus, chair of the board of trustees.

"One of the reasons that Smith is in such an enviable position today is that it has had extraordinary presidents," Lazarus observed. "Ruth Simmons has continued that tradition. Her hard and enlightened work on behalf of the college has ensured that Smith's future remains bright."
Lazarus cited particularly Simmons' "oversight of the planning process" that has resulted in many important initiatives, her leadership of the college's comprehensive fundraising campaign, and "the attention she has drawn to Smith's outstanding faculty, students and programs."
Since coming to Smith, Simmons has galvanized the campus through an ambitious campus-wide self-study process that has resulted in a number of landmark initiatives:

· Praxis, a program that allows every Smith student the opportunity to elect an internship funded by the college. The program, which assures that every student will have access to at least one paid internship during her undergraduate career, funded 500 summer internships during each of the two years since it was established.

· An engineering program, the first undergraduate engineering program at a women's college and one of very few at liberal arts colleges. The Picker Program in Engineering and Technology, now in its first full year, has attracted support from the Ford Motor Company, the Institute of Women in Technology, Hewlett-Packard, and Women in Technology International, which, as part of an alliance with Smith, plans to establish its first technology incubator on the Smith campus in the spring of 2001. This fall Ford Motor Company awarded Smith $2.5 million for scholarships and other initiatives designed to accelerate the growth of the engineering program. Through its association with the Institute of Women in Technology Smith has become the site for one of seven IWT Virtual Development Centers and has received a $250,000 equipment grant from Hewlett-Packard.

· Programs in the humanities that include the establishment of a poetry center that has brought a number of eminent poets to campus since its inception and a peer-reviewed journal devoted to publishing outstanding scholarly works by and about women of color.

· Curricular innovations that include intensive seminars for first-year students and programs to encourage students' speaking and writing skills.

· An increase in faculty size.

· A target of opportunity program for recruitment of minority faculty.

· Creation of the Campus Climate Working Group, the ombuds office and the Office of Institutional Diversity to facilitate diversity efforts and reduce conflicts.

· The Kahn Institute, an innovative, interdisciplinary program that encourages the interaction of students, faculty and visiting scholars through intensive research and other collaborations and enhances the intellectual life of the college through symposia, performances, exhibitions and workshops.

· A reduction in the faculty teaching load from 3-2 to 2-2.

· An increase in student financial aid.

· Overall, admission yields and selectivity have increased; minority applications have risen dramatically and the current first-year class is one of the most diverse in decades.

· Gifts to the college have increased steadily during Simmons' tenure, notably among alumnae, parents, corporations and foundations. A $250 million campaign -- at the time of its announcement, the most ambitious fundraising effort ever undertaken by a liberal arts college -- has realized 85 percent of its goal two years ahead of schedule.

In addition, a number of significant building projects have been launched during President Simmons' administration:

· A $35-million expansion and renovation of the college's fine arts center, including the Smith College Museum of Art, art department and art library, designed by James Polshek and Associates, is currently under construction.

· Ground will be broken in the spring of 2002 for a campus center, designed by New York architects Weiss/Manfredi. Plans call for a striking building on the center campus that will serve as a gateway to and gathering place for the Smith community.

· Plans are complete for a renovation of the Lyman Conservatory, which will take place in the summer of 2002. The conservatory and adjacent gardens, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, contain a plant collection that ranges across continents and seasons.

· A number of student residences and athletic facilities have undergone significant renovations over the past six years.

· Well along in the planning stages are new science facilities and refurbishing of the Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts.

In a letter to students, faculty and staff announcing her decision, Simmons said she has been "enormously proud to lead the college during this exciting and productive era."

"More than anything," she said, "I have been touched by the warmth and affection of the students and the collegiality of staff and faculty. I have also appreciated the opportunity to get to know so many outstanding alumnae as well as the many friends and supporters of Smith around the country and the world. These associations have made this experience an unforgettably moving and happy one for me."

Moving to Brown, Simmons noted, will enable her to play a more direct role in areas of national need that are of particular importance to her. These include graduate education, access of minorities to elite higher education, national educational policies in relation to diversity and the role of universities in reforming public education.

Active in a wide range of educational, charitable and civic endeavors, Simmons holds honorary degrees from a number of institutions, including Amherst and Dartmouth colleges; Princeton, Boston, Northeastern and Dillard universities; and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She serves on numerous boards, including the Clarke School for the Deaf; Pfizer Inc.; Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; Texas Instruments, Inc.; the Carnegie Corporation and the Goldman Sachs Group. A member of the advisory boards of the Gates Millennium Scholars program and Women in Technology International, she is also a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Planning for a successor to Simmons will begin immediately. John M. Connolly, provost and dean of the faculty, will serve as acting president of the college, beginning July 1, 2001, until a new president takes office.
Simmons will complete the full academic year at Smith and will participate in Commencement activities in May.

Contact: Laurie Fenlason,, 413/585-2190

November 9, 2000


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