Ruth Simmons joins Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation board

Ruth Simmons

Rice University’s Ruth Simmons, a President’s Distinguished Fellow, has accepted an invitation to join the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s Board of Directors. The foundation is a charitable organization formed by Neil and Maria Bush to carry forth former First Lady Barbara Bush’s legacy in the literacy cause and to focus on breaking the intergenerational cycle of low literacy.

Ruth Simmons
Ruth Simmons

“I am excited and honored to be a part of the foundation’s important mission of expanding access to high-quality literacy programs and resources to children and families across our city,” Simmons said. “Reading has been a personal passion of mine since childhood and a skill that I have promoted to thousands of students with whom I have engaged during my long academic career.”

The foundation extended its enthusiasm to have Simmons join the board as well.

“We are honored that Dr. Simmons will lend her vast knowledge of education and passion for literacy as a board member,” said Neil Bush, the foundation’s co-founder and chairperson. “She truly understands firsthand the value of instilling a love of reading and education success as keys to realizing one’s full potential and living the American dream.”

Simmons has dedicated her career to enhancing educational opportunities. Prior to joining Rice, she served as the eighth president of Prairie View A&M University from 2017-23. From 2001-12, she served as the 18th president of Brown University where she was the first African American president of an Ivy League institution. In 1995 she led Smith College, the nation’s largest women’s college.

Simmons is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, an honorary fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge and a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. She currently advises Harvard University regarding relationships with historically Black universities.

She earned her bachelor’s degree from Dillard University and a master’s and doctoral degree in romance literature from Harvard University. In 2023, she released a memoir “Up Home: One Girl’s Journey” about her journey growing up in the segregated South, including Houston’s Greater Fifth Ward, and the people who influenced her on her path to leading some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions.