PVAMU President receives proclamation at Houston City Hall

The chambers in city hall were full of joy and gratitude as President Ruth J. Simmons was on hand to receive a proclamation celebrating her storied career in higher education and involvement in the Greater Houston community.“It’s an honor to be recognized in the city that helped you develop and grow – the city that believed in you,” explained Ruth J. Simmons, education pioneer, as she was being honored as the first woman and eighth president of Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) by Houston City Councilman David Robinson and Mayor Sylvester Turner.”

Houston City Council members each took turns acknowledging their admiration of Simmons and her many accomplishments. Moved by the presentation, Simmons described her childhood in segregated Grapeland, Texas and discussed moving to Houston with her family where she was embraced by the Fifth Ward community and buoyed to attend college by the teachers that she encountered while attending Phillis Wheatley High School.

“My teachers saw something in me that they nurtured. Without their support and the encouragement of my family, I would have never gone on to college,” shared Simmons.

Eventually, Simmons graduated from Dillard University, a private, liberal-arts black college in New Orleans, before earning her masters and doctorate at Harvard University. She went on to become the first African American president of an Ivy League University when she assumed the presidency at Brown University in 2001. Simmons is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to France, the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University.

Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations. She serves on the boards of FCAU, NV, and Square, as well as a number of non-profit boards, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture, the Holdsworth Center, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

While Simmons’ accolades are many, she said that she is most proud of being able to share this honor with her family. Several of her brothers and sisters, along with her beloved daughter Maya, accompanied her to City Hall as the hometown girl was honored with her very own day!