On October 15, 2021, Southwestern University will welcome Dr. Ruth J. Simmons as the guest speaker for the Roy and Margaret Shilling Lecture. The title of her talk is “Diversity in Higher Education: How Far Have We Come?”

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Dr. Ruth Simmons Dr. Ruth Simmons

A French professor before entering university administration, while President of Brown University, Simmons also held an appointment as a professor of comparative literature and Africana studies at Brown. After completing her Ph.D. in romance languages and literatures at Harvard University, she served in various faculty and administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and Spelman College before becoming president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the U.S. At Smith, she launched a number of important academic initiatives, including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college. 

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, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Centennial Medal from Harvard University and the Theodore Hesburgh Award for Excellence in Leadership. Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and she serves on the boards of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Holdsworth Center. Awarded numerous honorary degrees, she received the Brown faculty’s highest honor: the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal in 2011. In 2012, she was named a chevalier of the French Legion of Honor.

Simmons is currently serving as President of Prairie View A&M University. 

Drawing approximately 700 attendees to each event, the biennial Shilling Lecture was established in 1999 by The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, to honor Southwestern’s 13th president, Roy B. Shilling Jr., and his wife, Margaret. The Shilling Lecture provides an opportunity for the greater Southwestern University community to engage with ideas from multiple perspectives, hear insightful discussions, and interact on campus with experts and influential figures. The 2021 Shilling Lecture will be held during the weekend of President Laura Skandera Trombley’s inauguration ceremony and Southwestern’s homecoming celebration, which takes place October 15–17.