97-134 (William Simmons)
Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed June 8, 1998
Contact: Mark Nickel

William S. Simmons named executive vice president and provost

William S. Simmons, dean of the Division of Social Sciences at the University of California-Berkeley, has been named executive vice president and provost of Brown University.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Anthropologist William S. Simmons, currently dean of the Division of Social Sciences at the University of California-Berkeley, has been named executive vice president and provost of Brown University. He will begin his duties at Brown in August.

"As a Providence native, Brown alumnus, distinguished scholar and seasoned administrator, Bill Simmons was an extraordinary candidate," said Brown President E. Gordon Gee. "His record of scholarship and service to his discipline, coupled with his experience as chair and dean at Berkeley, made him a perfect fit for this position. I believe the Brown community will come to know him as a magnificent provost."

"During my entire career as a teacher, scholar and senior dean at Berkeley, I have admired Brown from a considerable distance," Simmons said. "The opportunity to return to Providence and to become involved in the future of my alma mater was simply too good to pass up. I look forward to rejoining the campus community later this summer."

Historically, the provost has been the chief academic officer of the University and the president's second-in-command. Earlier this year, as part of a general reorganization of his senior administration, Gee reconfigured the provost's office and assigned it a larger and more central role to ensure that academic priorities would continue to drive the University's planning and decision making. Simmons will be the first to serve as executive vice president and provost.

"During his tenure as anthropology department chair and later as division dean, Bill Simmons responded impressively to some very complex challenges and volatile issues," said Donald J. Reaves, executive vice president for finance and administration, who served on the provost selection committee. "He is a decisive administrator, yet he consults widely and effectively. I look forward to his arrival on campus."

Simmons will become Brown's seventh provost, succeeding James Pomerantz, who left office in January. He will take over from Sheila E. Blumstein, the former dean of the College who agreed to serve as interim provost through June 1998.

"The new office of executive vice president and provost have a significant role in shaping the University's academic core programs and in sustaining their high level of quality," Blumstein said. "Brown is at the beginning of an exciting new period in its history. It has been an honor to have served as provost during this transition."

Simmons was selected from a national field of nearly 100 candidates by a 15-member committee of faculty, administrators and students chaired by Professors Nancy Armstrong and Franco Preparata.

"The committee wanted to find the right person to build a world-class graduate school while maintaining Brown's outstanding undergraduate College," Armstrong and Preparata said in a joint statement. "We are confident that Bill Simmons has the intellectual and administrative qualifications to accomplish that mission. We found him to be a creative problem solver, with outstanding leadership qualities."

William S. Simmons

A native of Providence, R.I., Simmons graduated from Classical High School and earned a bachelor of arts in human biology with honors from Brown University in 1960. He continued his studies in anthropology at Harvard University (M.A., 1963; Ph.D., 1967). After serving as summer director of Brown's Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology in 1967, he joined the faculty of the University of California-Berkeley as assistant professor of anthropology, rising to associate (1970) and full professor (1979).

Simmons' research interests are in social anthropology and ethnohistory, particularly the study of North American Indian societies and especially those of California and New England. More than half of his 53 academic publications deal with the native peoples of New England, including the Narragansett of Rhode Island. (Brown's Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology and the historically significant sites on Brown's property in Bristol, R.I., now report through the provost's office.)

In addition to teaching and conducting research, Simmons served in several administrative capacities at Berkeley, including department chair, associate dean of the Graduate Division, director of Berkeley's Center for the Teaching and Study of American Cultures, and his current position as dean of the Division of Social Sciences, Berkeley's largest academic division, which he has held since 1993.

In 1987, Simmons chaired a special committee on education and ethnicity to address student criticisms of the undergraduate curriculum. The committee recommended that all Berkeley students be required to take a new "American Cultures" course, to be offered by a wide range of departments. Simmons directed a seven-year implementation process which involved creation of more than 230 new courses by more than 140 faculty in 42 departments. The American Cultures requirement, one of the largest curricular innovations ever to occur at Berkeley, is a thriving part of the undergraduate experience.

Simmons is married to Cheryl Leif Simmons and has two daughters, Riva and Kaia.