Best Campus Leader

The first African American to head an Ivy League school has made all the difference.

from Reader's Digest Magazine | May 2004

When conservative gadfly David Horowitz took out an ad in March 2001 in The Brown Daily Herald opposing slavery reparations, students stole the paper and predicted violent protests. So the College Republicans rescinded an invitation to Horowitz to speak. Yet two years later, Horowitz addressed a calm Brown crowd who wanted to debate his ideas. The difference comes down to one person — Brown president Ruth Simmons, who took up her post in July 2001. The first African American to head an Ivy League school, this sharecropper’s daughter welcomed the class of 2005 with a warning: “If you’ve come to this place for comfort, I urge you to rise, walk through yonder gate, and don’t look back.” On a campus long a bastion of liberalism, political debate now flourishes. Simmons even sat near the front of the auditorium for Horowitz’s speech. Says Stephen Beale, editor of the right-leaning Brown Spectator, “She is an inspirational president who clearly sees the need for intellectual diversity and academic freedom.”

  • Your Comments