New York Couple’s High Regard For Prairie View A&M University President Inspires $200,000 Gift
New York Couple’s High Regard for Prairie View A&M University President Inspires Leadership Gift
She left an impression—that is what Prairie View A&M University President Ruth Simmons does—she leaves a mark wherever she goes, inspiring positive change that resonates beyond universities into the lives of individuals, families, and communities. It is what Noreen and Ned Zimmerman witnessed during Ruth’s presidency at Smith College from 1995 to 2001.
“Ruth led Smith through a very forward-looking examination of itself and its aspirations,” said Noreen and Ned in a joint statement. “And it had an energizing effect on a college that was already very successfully positioned.”
Noreen and Ned’s high regard for Ruth and the imprint she left on Smith College never left them, and recently the New York couple demonstrated their esteem for Ruth by generously donating $200,000 to Prairie View A&M University in support of the Fannie and Isaac Stubblefield Endowed Scholarship Fund, the fund Ruth established in honor of her parents.
Noreen, a first-generation college student and alumna of Smith College, remembers fondly the movement sparked by Ruth to enhance Smith College’s diversity. This spirit of inclusiveness distinguished Ruth’s tenure at Smith and also left an impression on Ned who served on the college’s board. “While I was on the board, I had the benefit of being up close and seeing how Ruth thought, worked, and wisely led,” said Ned. “She knew how to engage the entire college community—faculty, staff, students, board, and the town as well—in pitching in to collaboratively create a plan and therefore really buy into it.”
After she became president of Brown University in 2001, Ned and Noreen lost touch with Ruth’s activities—until this past May when the pair learned more about the lasting impact of Ruth’s leadership. “Noreen and I were attending a high school graduation in Washington DC of one of our grandchildren,” shared Ned. “The speaker was Valerie Smith, the president of another leading college, Swarthmore, and in the course of her speech she cited the importance to her and her career of two mentors—one of whom was: Ruth Simmons.”
That got Noreen and Ned thinking about Ruth, and their curiosity led them to Google where they discovered Ruth’s new chapter as president of Prairie View A&M University. “Here’s an opportunity for us,” thought the couple, “to express our regard for her—and by extension the institution she decided to work for.”
Recognizing the transformative value of scholarships, the couple sought to serve both the needs of Prairie View and the needs of deserving students through their philanthropy. Through conversations with Carme Williams, vice president of development at Prairie View, Ned and Noreen learned that not only were they able to contribute to a fund that Ruth had already established, but they were also able to double their investment and deepen their impact through the university’s dollar-for-dollar matching gift program. “It just blew our socks off,” said Ned.
“Moreover, giving to the Fannie and Isaac Stubblefield Endowed Scholarship Fund allows us to honor Ruth while also capturing our twin regard for PV and its students.”
“Noreen and Ned’s gift is an extraordinary act of altruism and will make an invaluable difference in the lives of our students who are worthy of significant support such as this,” said Ruth. “We are deeply grateful for their leadership contribution. Because of their generosity, the university will be able to assist more students in their academic pursuits and lift their lives in untold ways—ways that will guide them long after graduation.”
While it was the positive impression that Ruth left on Noreen and Ned more than two decades ago that eventually led to their gift, it is the couple’s positive impression of the university that they do not want students to forget: “What a testament to the potential Ruth sees in you that she’s come to work at PV!”
Prairie View A&M University
Office of Development
P.O. Box 519 M.S. 1200
Prairie View, TX 77446