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William J. Holmes, 86, of Duxbury; his 23-year tenure as Simmons College president was second longest in school’s history

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In his 1970 inauguration speech as the fourth president of Simmons College, William J. Holmes talked about the need to expand programs that would train women for executive-level careers.

“Women are no longer satisfied to see themselves as conservers of culture,” Dr. Holmes said. “They also want to be seen as leaders and managers.”

Dr. Holmes, who died on Feb. 7 at 86 and had lived in Duxbury in retirement, backed efforts in the early 1970s to open the Simmons School of Management, the nation’s first master’s of business administration program created for women.

“I think the creation of the first MBA program designed for women in the country was really due to Bill Holmes’s foresight and risk-taking,” said Helen G. Drinan, president of Simmons.

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