President Biden has appointed Prairie View A&M University’s president, Dr. Ruth Simmons, and award-winning actress and philanthropist, Taraji P. Henson, to serve on the presidential advisory board on HBCUs.

According to an announcement from the White House on Thursday, these appointees are among the nine men and nine women who will serve on the advisory board. Among Biden’s nominations are HBCU presidents, the president of United Airlines and the first Black female administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Simmons and Henson will be joining Tony Allen, Chairperson of the board and president of Delaware State University and Glenda Glover, Vice Chairperson of the board and president of Tennessee State University.

HBCU presidents of Virginia State University, Norfolk State University in Virginia, Alabama State University, and Dillard University in New Orleans will also join the board.

This really clears up the recent news about Simmons changing roles at PVAMU.

On Thursday, Chancellor John Sharp announced that Simmons will have a new role and title following the end of her term as president. 

As President Emerita, she will also hold a faculty appointment as University Professor, which will provide her the flexibility to continue important aspects of her work on behalf of Prairie View.  As University Professor, she is free of a single departmental home and may affiliate across departments, collaborating and lecturing as deemed suitable. 

As a faculty member, Simmons may participate in instruction and research in ways that utilize best her unique experience and leadership in higher education.

1.       She will perform duties as needed on behalf of the new president, up to and including assisting in raising funds and expanding the number of important institutional partnerships that increase the research and doctoral granting profile of the university.

2.       She will launch a leadership program for those seeking to advance in higher education leadership.  Doing so will be the culmination of a decades-long effort on her part to increase the diversity of senior leadership in colleges and universities.

“A former president of Smith College and Brown University, Dr. Simmons has much still to offer Prairie View in its quest to be in the top tier of Research2 HBCUs,” said Chancellor Sharp.  “When she approached me last year about wanting to relinquish some of her day-to-day duties as president, I immediately thought about finding a way for her to continue to work on behalf of Prairie View.  I believe this is the perfect solution, enabling her to devote time to her special interests and, at the same time, continue to play a leadership role in preparing the next generation of leaders.”

Simmons held an appointment at Brown University as Professor of Comparative Literature and African American Studies.  She is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.   A chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, she received the Hesburgh Award from the American Council on Education last year.

Earlier this month, President Simmons announced she would be stepping down as soon as a successor had been found. At the time, Chancellor Sharp said he wanted Dr. Simmons, who has led Prairie View A&M since 2017, to stay with the Texas A&M System in some capacity.

A 14-member search committee has been created to conduct a nationwide search for President Simmons’ successor.