Ruth Simmons, former president of Brown University and Smith College. She was the first African American woman to head a major college or university (Smith) and her presidency at Brown made her the first Black president of an Ivy League school and the University’s first female president.
"Probably the most important experience I had in that regard was working at Princeton in the dean of the faculty office for a man named Aaron Lemonick. He was an unlikely sort of mentor for me. He was Jewish and from Philadelphia. I was a Baptist from the South. But we had an immediate connection for a very important reason, and that is that he said what he thought, and I said what I thought. And the first time that we met and we spoke, we both understood that we’d found something valuable."
"He was very focused on details, and it was the first time in my career that I had worked with someone who was so focused on every minor thing, or everything that I thought at the time was minor."
"We couldn’t have been more different, but he was very demanding of me, and he didn’t patronize me. It was the first time probably in my entire career that I actually met somebody who did not patronize me as an African-American and a woman. The lesson of that, of course, is that as you’re trying to help people, you can give very honest criticism, but if you do it in the context of genuinely wanting to help them, it makes all the difference in the world."
New York Times, Photograph via PBS