President Ruth Simmons will travel to Houston on Friday to speak on civil rights issues at Rice University's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture. Simmons is giving her talk, "Sand and Ivy: The Unquantifiable in Academic Life," as part of the university's President's Lecture Series of Diverse Scholars.
Rice originally extended an invitation for Simmons to speak last year, but she wasn't able to attend because of scheduling difficulties, said Marisa Quinn, assistant to the president. Originally the speech was to be just part of the diverse scholars series, but Rice President David Leebron decided to combine the occasion with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture.
Simmons was chosen for the lecture because of her personal background and professional achievements, Rice spokesman B.J. Almond wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. He cited Simmons' graduation from Houston's predominantly black Wheatley High School, her status as the first black president of an Ivy League university and her commission of the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice as reasons for her selection.
Similar to Simmons' Plan for Academic Enrichment at Brown, Leebron is currently leading Rice in a major multi-year initiative to improve many aspects of the university. His "Vision for the Second Century" agenda focuses on building new facilities, enhancing research, improving the university's graduate schools and "internationalization" - many of the same goals in the Plan for Academic Enrichment.
Leebron is holding a dinner in Simmons' honor prior to Friday's lecture.
After speaking at Rice, Simmons is slated to travel to Newport Beach, Calif., to attend the annual fall meeting of the Association of American Universities.
The AAU is an organization of 62 American and Canadian research universities which assists member institutions in developing policy positions on issues relevant to a major research institution, according to its Web site. All the Ivy League schools except Dartmouth are members.
Simmons will also be doing some development work for Brown in California after the AAU meeting, Quinn said.