Brown University President Ruth Simmons, the first black person to lead an Ivy League college, said she will step down at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year.
Simmons, who is in her 11th year in the post, will stay on as a professor of comparative literature and Africana studies, she said in a letter posted on Brown’s website today. The Brown Corporation, the university’s governing body, will choose her successor, the statement said.
“Things are in terrific order,” Simmons said today in an interview. “I concluded this was a really good time.”
Simmons, 66, increased the size of Brown’s faculty, boosted student financial aid and built up the campus, according to a university statement. While she led the school through the 2008 financial crisis, students criticized Simmons for her membership on the board of investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) Simmons, who had planned to step down from the presidency after 10 years, was asked to delay her departure as the university finished a major fundraising campaign, Brown officials said.
“There were a number of projects in progress that were very important to get finished,” said Stephen Robert, the school’s former chancellor and a current member of the Brown Corporation who led the search committee that recommended hiring Simmons away from Smith College in 2001. “Part of it was just not wanting her to leave. In recent modern history, she’s been Brown’s best president.”
Under Simmons, applicants to the undergraduate program doubled and the size of Brown’s faculty increased 20 percent, allowing for more course offerings, according to the university. She presided over construction of a new medical school, fine arts center and campus center.
“If a president had done one or two of these things in 10 years it would have been good,” Robert said. “To have done all of them is extraordinary.”
Brown raised $1.61 billion in a seven-year campaign that ended in December, exceeding the original goal of $1.4 billion, according to the statement. Simmons was very active in the capital campaign, said Matthew Mallow, a member of the Brown Corporation who co-chaired the effort.
“For seven years, Ruth and I and our colleagues traveled the world” to raise funds, said Mallow, a retired partner of law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP. “It was a long and arduous effort, and that was a crowning achievement.”
Simmons was criticized by the school’s student newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald, for her membership on Goldman Sachs’s board. U.S. investigators said in April 2010 that the company had misled investors in mortgage-linked securities.
Simmons stepped down from that board last year, citing a need to spend more time at Brown. When she was hired to come to the university 10 years ago, corporation members had asked her to relinquish her membership on two other boards, but they played no role in her decision to leave Goldman’s board, Mallow said.
“The controversy was more among students than anyone else,” Robert said. “I don’t think there was any kind of a conflict.”
Simmons received total compensation from the investment bank valued at $450,876 for 2009, her last full year as a director, according to a regulatory filing. In the same year, her total compensation from Brown was $656,683, according to a separate filing.
The issue of her link to Goldman Sachs wasn’t among her reasons to leave the presidency at Brown, Simmons said in the interview. She is currently a director at Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN)
Simmons got her bachelor’s degree from Dillard University in New Orleans in 1967 and her Ph.D. in Romance languages and literatures from Harvard University in 1973, according to Brown’s website. Time magazine named her America’s best college president in 2001, the website said.
Founded in 1764, Brown is the a member of the Ivy League of eight northeastern U.S. colleges. Brown has about 6,000 undergraduate students, 2,000 graduate students and 400 attending its medical school, according to the university.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jonathan Kaufman at Jkaufman17@bloomberg.net