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Morehouse Mom Prepares to Inspire Morehouse Men

By Shaneesa N. Ashford

When Ruth J. Simmons, the 18th president of Brown University, visits Morehouse to serve as the speaker for the 122nd Commencement, she may have a bout of déjà vu. It was only eight years ago that the “Morehouse Mom” watched her son, Khari Simmons ’98, march across the stage and receive his degree in music.

“I’m sure it will be very emotional, thinking about my own son and how much his Morehouse education has meant in his own life,” Simmons said. “So I’m very proud to be able to speak to these noble men who are going out into the world.”

A Dillard University and Harvard University graduate, Simmons took the helm of Brown University in 2001. Besides serving on a number of faculties, she served as provost of Spelman College for two years and as the president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the United States.

In her role as an educator and administrator, she has affected the lives of thousands of students. This year, she has the opportunity to send hundreds of Morehouse Men off into the future, knowing they are prepared to face it head-on.

“I’m sure they don’t even realize how often they will call on their education at Morehouse in the years ahead, in good times and bad,” Simmons said. “Their experience at Morehouse will lift them up in the bad times, and will take them higher in the good times.”

At Commencement, Morehouse also will bestow honorary degrees on Simmons, Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. and Morehouse Board of Trustee member B. Franklin Skinner. Gordy has guided the careers of numerous famous R&B acts, including the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5. The visionary was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and is a 2005 recipient of Morehouse’s Candle for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Entertainment.

Skinner was elected to the College’s Board of Trustees in 1996. The retired Chairman and CEO of BellSouth has served on the executive, development and finance committees for the Board of Trustees. He also is the past chairman of the Metropolitan Atlanta United Negro College Fund Advisory Board.

A presidential citation will be awarded to Benjamin Blackburn ‘61, who serves as secretary on Morehouse’s Board of Trustees. He attended Meharry Medical College, and is the first African American to teach at the Medical College of Georgia and Emory University’s schools of dentistry.

This year’s Commencement also will mark the gathering of alumni for Reunion 2006, honoring members of classes ending in 1 and 6. Festivities will include the “Golden Tigers” 50-Year Reunion Breakfast, the reunion picnic and the Reunion Banquet at the Ritz Carlton in downtown Atlanta.

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