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Brown University president to leave her post after June 30

By David Klepper
Associated Press / September 16, 2011

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PROVIDENCE - Ruth J. Simmons, the first African-American woman to lead an Ivy League university, is stepping down as president of Brown University.

In a statement sent to students, faculty, and alumni yesterday morning announcing her departure, Simmons called her time leading Brown deeply satisfying but said the time was right for a change.

“I recently decided that this is the ideal time both for Brown and for me personally to begin the process of transitioning to new leadership,’’ she said.

Simmons plans to leave her position at the end of the current academic year. She plans to take up professional projects she put on hold while serving as president. She said she plans to then return to Brown to continue teaching as a professor of comparative literature and Africana studies.

Simmons became Brown’s president in 2001 after serving as president of Smith College.

Under her leadership, Brown increased faculty from 573 to 687, built a new home for the medical school in Providence’s Knowledge District, established the Brown Institute for Brain Science, and undertook a $1.4 billion fund-raising campaign.

Simmons also established a task force to investigate the university’s historic ties to slavery, worked to expand academic ties to India and China, and forged new ties with Providence institutions including the Rhode Island School of Design.

“Ruth’s leadership at Brown has been monumental,’’ said chancellor Thomas J. Tisch.

Her departure stunned students who say Facebook lit up with pleas for her stay as soon as she announced her departure. Simmons was popular among students, who have sold T-shirts displaying her image to raise money for campus activities.

Her successor will be chosen by the Brown Corp., the entity that governs the university. Her resignation is effective June 30, but Simmons has agreed to serve until her replacement is picked.