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28th Annual Barbara Jordan National Forum Keynote: Dr. Ruth Simmons

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Students at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin will pay tribute to the life and legacy of former congresswoman, distinguished public servant and teacher Barbara Jordan during the 28th annual Barbara Jordan National Forum (BJNF) throughout the month of February.

The theme of the 2024 celebration, "Civic Empowerment in a Time of Democratic Uncertainty," comes from this quote from Jordan's 1976 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention:

"And now, what are those of us who are elected public officials supposed to do? We call ourselves “public servants” but I’ll tell you this: We as public servants must set an example for the rest of the nation."

Please join us for a distinguished keynote address by Dr. Ruth Simmons, the 2024 Barbara Jordan Public Service Award recipient, followed by a reception.

About Ruth Simmons

Dr. Ruth Simmons is a Distinguished Presidential Fellow at Rice University and Adviser to the President of Harvard University on HBCU Initiatives. She served as President of Prairie View A&M University until March 2023. Prior to joining Prairie View, she was President of Brown University from 2001-2012 and President of Smith College from 1995-2001. Under her leadership, Prairie View was reclassified as an R-2 Research University and Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities.

A French professor before entering university administration, President Simmons held an appointment as a Professor of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies at Brown. After completing her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard, she served in various faculty and administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and Spelman College before becoming president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the United States. At Smith, she launched a number of important academic initiatives, including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college.

Simmons is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to France, the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. She has received over forty honorary degrees from universities around the world, including Oxford University, Ewha Women’s University in South Korea, and The American College in Greece. Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the boards of The MacArthur Foundation, Morehouse College, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Holdsworth Center, and Hines Global Income Trust. She received the Brown faculty’s highest honor: the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal in 2011 and was honored by the Prairie View faculty in 2022. In 2012, she was named a ‘Chevalier’ of the French Legion of Honor.

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