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Ruth J. Simmons

Academic administrator and college president Ruth J. Simmons was born on July 3, 1945 near Grapeland, Texas to Fanny and Isaac Stubblefield. After the family moved to Houston in 1952, Simmons graduated top of her class from Phillis Wheatley High School in 1963. She then received her B.A. degree in French from Dillard University in 1967 and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in romance languages and literature from Harvard University in 1970 and 1973.

Simmons became as an assistant professor of French at the University of New Orleans in 1973; and, two years later, was promoted to assistant dean of their College of Liberal Arts. In 1977, she was hired by California State University, Northridge where she served as administrative coordinator for their National Endowment for the Humanities Liberal Studies Project until 1978 when she was made acting director of international programs and associate professor of Pan-African studies. In 1979, Simmons joined the University of Southern California as assistant, and then associate dean of graduate studies. She remained here until 1983 when she was hired by Princeton University to serve as director of studies for their new residential college, Butler College. From 1985 to 1987 she also worked as their acting director of Afro-American studies; and, in 1986, she was promoted to associate dean of faculty at Princeton University. Simmons subsequently served as provost of Spelman College from 1990 to 1991 before returning to Princeton as vice provost. In 1995, Simmons became the first African American woman to head a major college or university upon being named president of Smith College. Here, she established the first engineering program at a woman’s college. She held this position until 2001 when she was selected president of Brown University, making her the first African American woman to head an Ivy League institution. Here, she raised a record amount of funding for the school and established a need-blind admission standard for undergraduates. In 2012, she stepped down as president of Brown, but remained as a professor of comparative literature and Africana studies. Simmons subsequently became interim president of Prairie View A&M University in 2017 before being named president of the school, making her their first woman president.

Simmons has served on numerous boards throughout her career, including for JSTOR, Pfizer, Inc., Texas Instruments, Goldman Sachs, Howard University, Mondelez International, Chrysler, LLC, and Princeton University. She has also been a presidential appointee for President Bill Clinton’s Women’s Progress Commemoration Commission in 1999 and President Barack Obama’s Commission on White House Fellowships in 2009.

Simmons has over thirty honorary degrees and has received many awards such as CBS’s Woman of the Year in 1996, the National Urban League’s Achievement Award in 1998, the United Negro College Fund’s President’s Award in 2001, the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal in 2002, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2010.

Simmons resides in Texas and has two adult children, Khari and Maya.

Ruth J. Simmons was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 3, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.134

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/3/2019

Last Name

Simmons

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

J.

Schools

W.R. Banks Elementary School

Phillis Wheatley High School

Dillard University

Wellesley College

George Washington University

Harvard University

Atherton Elementary

First Name

Ruth

Birth City, State, Country

Grapeland

HM ID

SIM14

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

France

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

7/3/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Prairie View

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken Enchiladas With Rice And Refried Beans, Gumbo

Short Description

Academic administrator and college president Ruth J. Simmons (1945- ) was the first African American woman to head a major college or university as president of Smith College, the first African American woman to head an Ivy League institution as president of Brown University, and the first woman president of Prairie View A&M University.

Employment

Brown University

Prairie View A&M University

Smith College

Princeton University

Spelman College

University of Southern California

California State University, Northridge

University of New Orleans

Radcliffe College

George Washington University

Language Services Division, U.S. Department of State

Favorite Color

Red

E. Ginger Sullivan

Civic leader E. Ginger Sullivan was born on July 30, 1933 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts to Catherine Caesar and James Williamson. Sullivan attended Craneville Elementary School and Pittsfield High School. In 1955, Sullivan received her B.A. degree from Northeastern University. She later received her J.D. degree from Woodrow Wilson College of Law in the 1970s.

While attending Northeastern University, Sullivan served as a hepatic research technician at Yale School of Medicine. In 1958, she moved to New York, where she worked as a medical assistant. She later joined Massachusetts General Hospital as a cardiovascular researcher. An active member of Christ Church in Boston, Massachusetts, she helped plan the church’s trip to attend the March on Washington in 1963. In 1975, Sullivan’s husband, Dr. Louis Sullivan, was appointed dean of Morehouse College Medical Education Program. During his deanship, Sullivan clerked for a Fulton County Superior Court Judge and founded the Friends of Morehouse School of Medicine. After President George H.W. Bush appointed Dr. Louis Sullivan U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1988, Sullivan served as a spokesperson for the National Cancer Institute on the early detection and treatment of breast and prostate cancers in 1989. During this time, Sullivan also joined the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships for three years. In 1993, Sullivan and her family returned to Atlanta, where Dr. Louis Sullivan served as president of Morehouse School of Medicine until 2002.

Sullivan served as founder and co-sponsor of The Sullivan 5K Run/Walk Road Race for Health & Fitness on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. She has also served on the boards of the High Museum of Art, the Alliance Theatre, True Colors Theatre in Atlanta, Wolf Trap, the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., and the Arthritis Foundation of Georgia, and was a strong supporter of Medical Education for South African Blacks (MESAB) and Africare. A member of the Buckhead Cascade Chapter of Links, Inc. and the auxiliaries to the Atlanta Medical Association and the National Medical Association, Sullivan was active in the Atlanta community.

Sullivan and her husband, Dr. Louis Sullivan, have three children: Paul, Shanta, and Halsted.

E. Ginger Sullivan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 22, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.087

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/22/2019

Last Name

Sullivan

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Craneville Elementary School

Pittsfield High School

Northeastern University

Atlanta Law School

First Name

E. Ginger

Birth City, State, Country

Pittsfield

HM ID

SUL03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard or South Africa

Favorite Quote

The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

7/31/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Bluefish

Short Description

Civic leader E. Ginger Sullivan (1933- ) founded the Friends of Morehouse School of Medicine and served as a spokesperson for the National Cancer Institute from 1989 to 1993.

Employment

Yale School of Medicine

Massachusetts General Hospital

Superior Court of Fulton County

National Cancer Institute

Favorite Color

Blue

Peter Blair Henry

Economist and academic administrator Peter Blair Henry was born on July 30, 1969 in Kingston, Jamaica to George Henry and Caroll Henry. After moving to Wilmette, Illinois with his family at age nine, Henry attended New Trier High School. He earned his B.A. degree with distinction and highest honors in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1991. A Rhodes Scholar, Henry graduated from Oxford University with his B.A. degree in mathematics in 1993, and went on to receive his Ph.D. degree in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1997.

Henry worked as a consultant to the Governor of The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in 1994. The following year, he worked as a consultant to the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica. In 1997, Henry became an assistant professor of economics at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He was promoted to associate professor of economics with tenure in 2005, becoming the first tenured African American professor at the Graduate School of Business. He obtained a full professorship in 2007, and was named the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of International Economics in 2008. That same year, he led the external economic advisory group for then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. After the election, Henry served on President Obama’s transition team as leader of the review of international lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and was appointed to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships the following year. In 2010, Henry became the first African American dean, and the youngest dean, of New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business. He served in the position for eight years, becoming Dean Emeritus in 2018 and continuing as William R. Berkley Professor of Economics and Finance.

In 2013, Henry released his first book, Turnaround: Third World Lessons for First World Growth. Henry also published numerous articles on international economics, including “Debt Relief,” with Serkan Arslanalp, in the Journal of Economic Perspectives (2006); “Capital Account Liberalization: Theory, Evidence, and Speculation” in the Journal of Economic Literature (2007); and “Institutions vs. Policies: A Tale of Two Islands,” with Conrad Miller, in the American Economic Review (2009). Henry was named to the Citigroup Board of Directors in 2015 and the Board of Directors of Nike in 2018. He also served on the Board of Directors of General Electric from 2016 to 2018.

In 2014, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Henry established the Ph.D. Excellence Initiative, a post-baccalaureate program designed to address underrepresentation in economics by mentoring exceptional students of color interested in pursuing doctoral studies in the field.

Henry and his wife, Lisa J. Nelson, have four children.

Peter Blair Henry was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 29, 2016 and January 18, 2017.

Accession Number

A2016.088

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/29/2016

1/18/2017

Last Name

Henry

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Blair

Schools

Avoca West Elementary School

Marie Murphy School

New Trier Township High School

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of Oxford

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

First Name

Peter

Birth City, State, Country

Kingston

HM ID

HEN07

Favorite Season

Christmas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Spain - Andalusia, Ghana

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

7/30/1969

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

Jamaica

Favorite Food

Jerk pork

Short Description

Economist and academic administrator Peter Blair Henry (1969 - ) served on President Barack Obama’s 2008 transition team, and on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. In 2010, he became the youngest and first African American dean of New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

Employment

New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business

Stanford University, Graduate School of Business

Stanford University, School of Humanities and Sciences

Favorite Color

Blue