The former president of three American universities will deliver the address at Barnard’s 132nd Commencement ceremony on May 15.

Barnard has announced Ruth J Simmons, a scholar and President Emerita of Smith College, Brown University, and Prairie View A&M University, as the speaker at Barnard’s 132nd Commencement ceremony on May 15. Simmons will also receive the Barnard Medal of Distinction at the ceremony. 

Simmons became the first African American president of an Ivy League institution during her tenure as the president of Brown University from 2001 to 2012. From 1995 to 2001, she served as the president of Smith College, a historically women’s college that, alongside Barnard, is part of the historic Seven Sisters group. From 2017 to 2023, she was the president of Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black university in Prairie View, Texas. 

In an email to the Barnard student body, Barnard President Laura Rosenbury wrote, “Dr. Simmons’ contributions to higher education have been nothing short of extraordinary.” She added, “We trust that she will motivate and inspire our graduates as they embark on their own journeys.” 

Barnard’s 2024 Commencement is scheduled to take place on May 15 at Radio City Music Hall. Columbia University’s 2024 Commencement ceremony, originally scheduled for the morning of May 15, has been canceled, as Rosenbury noted toward the end of the email. 

Dr Ruth J Simmons via Wikimedia Commons