Lone Star College kicked off its Black History Month with “A Conversation with Dr. Ruth Simmons,” providing a first-hand account of how an education from all levels transforms lives. Simmons, Ph.D., and the first African American female president of an Ivy League institution shared her journey from humble beginnings to leading three universities as college president.
“Dr. Simmons’s inspiring story from poverty to leading top universities across the country gives students a perfect example of how hard work, dedication and a quality education can help them achieve great success and pay it forward to the next generation,” said Carlecia Wright, LSC senior associate vice chancellor and chief culture engagement officer.
Simmons, while on a book tour for her novel, “Up Home,” visited LSC Feb. 6 to share her insights and advice to LSC employees and students, including her philosophy on community colleges.
“I have had the opportunity to be a part of many elite institutions during my career, but I’ve always believed in and advocated for the importance of community colleges,” said Simmons. “I think the work you (Lone Star College) do is very important to the community because we must provide every access point into education for our young people so they can have a fair chance at a reasonable life.”
Simmons was born as the 12th child of sharecroppers in Grapeland, Texas, where money and resources were scarce. The family moved to Houston during The Great Migration, a time when many African Americans moved to escape sharecropping and racial violence and pursue better economic and educational opportunities. Settled in Fifth Ward, Simmons began attending school daily and quickly understood how an education would shape her future.
“Education was a blessing for me because it pointed my life in a direction that was very different from what I anticipated based on my birth,” she said. “There is nothing more important to our society and democracy than affording every single child access to a quality education. I believe that is one of our major obligations in life.”
Simmons credits her teachers and professors for her academic and professional success because they took an interest in her, nurtured her skills and challenged her past her comfort zone. Those are the same experiences she created for her students as a French professor and college administrator.
“Lone Star College was honored to spend the afternoon speaking with and learning from Dr. Simmons, one of the premiere leaders in education,” said Wright. “Dr. Simmons’s life proves that even under tough circumstances, an education can create bigger and brighter futures.”
Simmons has over 30 years in education, serving as a French professor and later as college president of Smith College, Brown University and Prairie View A&M University. She is a Distinguished Presidential Fellow at Rice University and an advisor at Harvard University on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) initiatives. Learn more about Simmons’s life at NEH.Gov/Award/Ruth-J-Simmons.
Lone Star College enrolls over 80,000 students each semester providing high-quality, low-cost academic transfer and career training education. LSC is training tomorrow’s workforce today and redefining the community college experience to support student success. Mario K. Castillo, J.D., serves as Chancellor of LSC, the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area. LSC has been named a 2023 Great Colleges to Work For® institution by the Chronicle of Higher Education and recognized by Fortune Magazine and Great Place To Work® as one of this year’s Best Workplaces in Texas™. LSC consists of eight colleges, seven centers, eight Workforce Centers of Excellence and Lone Star Corporate College. To learn more, visit LoneStar.edu.