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Brown Chief Says No to Harvard

By Nicholas M. Ciarelli, Crimson Staff Writer

In the guessing game that surrounds Harvard’s search for its 28th chief, Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons is an oft-cited contender. But at Brown’s freshman orientation last month, Simmons told a crowd of parents that she intends to stay put in Providence.

Asked by one first-year parent whether she would consider Harvard’s top job, Simmons said that she plans to serve out her term as president of Brown, according to The Brown Daily Herald, the university’s student newspaper. The remarks were her first public comment on the matter since Feb. 21, when Lawrence H. Summers announced his decision to resign.

“I think what I said was that I felt extremely fortunate to be able to do what I do at Brown,” Simmons told The Herald in a subsequent interview. “I was just saying that I was very happy and satisfied to be at Brown and that I could think of no better job. I think I even conceded as a Harvard alum that that was a perfectly respectable place and I wish them the best as they search for a president. I look forward to welcoming that person as a fellow president.”

Simmons, who holds a doctorate in Romance languages and literatures from Harvard, became the first African-American president of an Ivy League school when she took the helm at Brown in 2001. Popular among students, she launched a $1.4 billion capital campaign expected to wrap up by 2010.

Simmons was included in a February article in The Chronicle of Higher Education naming potential contenders for the search, which kicked off in March. But Brunonians can now breathe a sigh of relief as Simmons joins other higher-ed heavyweights who have denied having any interest in the Harvard presidency. These include Amy Gutmann ’71, president of the University of Pennsylvania; Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia; and Shirley M. Tilghman, president of Princeton.

Nannerl O. Keohane, a member of Harvard’s highest governing board and the former president of Duke University and Wellesley College—and a member of the presidential search committee—also told the Boston Globe in March that she is “not available” for the Harvard presidency.

“I want to tell people to please stop putting me on the lists of potential candidates,” she said.

—Staff writer Nicholas M. Ciarelli can be reached at

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