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Motivational Moments

December 13, 2011

Leadership Tuesdays

Ruth J. Simmons, President of Brown University

Leadership Tuesdays began this past April to provide a platform for a variety of voices and resources to develop, encourage, and strengthen women leaders. In our last edition for 2011, we are featuring Ruth J. Simmons, currently the President of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.  President Simmons has the distinct honor of being the first woman and the first African American to lead Brown University.  Furthermore, she is the first African American to lead an Ivy League institution. This past September, this well-respected and trailblazing leader announced that she would step down as president at the end of 2011 after 11 years of service to Brown University. 


In the article below, Ms. Simmons talks  to Adam Bryant, author of the New York Times' weekly column, "The Corner Office", about the leadership lessons she has learned during her more than 30 year career.

I Was Impossible, but Then I Saw How to Lead

This interview with Ruth J. Simmons, president of Brown University for the last 11 years, was conducted and condensed byAdam Bryant. Dr. Simmons is stepping down at the end of this academic year and will continue as a professor of comparative literature and Africana studies.

 Do you remember the first time you were somebody’s boss?

A. Probably the first time I was a boss was when I was associate dean of the graduate school at the University of Southern California. I was in my early 30s.

Q. Was that an easy transition?

A. It was. If I had to ask myself why, I would say it’s because I’d probably been building to the point where I was capable of doing those things without actually knowing that I could. And if you ask me how far back that went — this assemblage of skills and experience — I’d probably say that it went back to my childhood.

Q. How so?