28th Annual Barbara Jordan National Forum Keynote: Ruth Simmons

Event Status
Ruth Simmons Key Graphic

28th Annual Barbara Jordan National Forum Keynote: Dr. Ruth Simmons
Wednesday, Feb. 21 | 12:15 pm CT | LBJ School, Bass Lecture Hall 

Dr. Ruth Simmons is a Distinguished Presidential Fellow at Rice University and Adviser to the President of Harvard University on HBCU Initiatives. She served as President of Prairie View A&M University until March 2023. Prior to joining Prairie View, she was President of Brown University from 2001-2012 and President of Smith College from 1995-2001. Under her leadership, Prairie View was reclassified as an R-2 Research University and Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities.

A French professor before entering university administration, President Simmons held an appointment as a Professor of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies at Brown. After completing her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard, she served in various faculty and administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and Spelman College before becoming president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the United States. At Smith, she launched a number of important academic initiatives, including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college.

Simmons is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to France, the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. She has received over forty honorary degrees from universities around the world, including Oxford University, Ewha Women’s University in South Korea, and The American College in Greece. Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the boards of The MacArthur Foundation, Morehouse College, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Holdsworth Center, and Hines Global Income Trust. She received the Brown faculty’s highest honor: the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal in 2011 and was honored by the Prairie View faculty in 2022. In 2012, she was named a ‘Chevalier’ of the French Legion of Honor.

The Barbara Jordan Public Service Award honors a trailblazer and leader who represents Barbara Jordan’s voice, legacy and unwavering commitment to building community through activism and public service. Award recipients have a proven track record of advancing civic virtue and social justice and seek to improve the quality of democracy, governance and civic engagement across the world. Like Barbara Jordan, recipients of this award lead with courage and integrity. 

The award is given in February during the Annual Barbara Jordan National Forum, a student led series of events to honor the congresswoman and teacher’s legacy. The recipient of the Barbara Jordan Public Service Award is selected by student leaders of the Forum. 

About the 28th Barbara Jordan National Forum

Barbara Jordan National Forum Key Image

Students at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin will pay tribute to the life and legacy of former congresswoman, distinguished public servant and teacher Barbara Jordan during the 28th annual Barbara Jordan National Forum (BJNF) throughout the month of February.

The theme of the 2024 celebration, "Civic Empowerment in a Time of Democratic Uncertainty," comes from this quote from Jordan's 1976 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention:

BJNF Quote Graphic

Barbara Jordan taught at the LBJ School of Public Affairs from 1979 to 1996 as the Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair of Public Policy. It was the final chapter of her long career as a public servant, civil rights leader, educator and policymaker who worked tirelessly for social justice and integrity in public service. Her contributions to history and to the education of future change-makers act as a lodestar to the School and its mission, and each year the Barbara Jordan National Forum honors her memory.

The Forum, which is student led and organized, includes a series of lectures and events, an awards ceremony and a day of volunteerism. 

Barbara Jordan National Forum Student Leaders 

2024 BJNF Chairs Banner

The month-long forum is organized by LBJ School students elected by their peers to represent the ethical public service leadership and commitment to community that define Barbara Jordan's legacy.

Meet the 2024 Barbara Jordan National Forum student leaders:

Camille Meshack Headshot Square

Camille Meshack, MGPS/JD Dual Degree '27

Focus Areas: Human Rights, Civilian Security, and International Law 

“My goal for for the 28th forum is to preserve and promote the life and legacy of Barbara Jordan and provide a venue for students and rising leaders to foster civic conversations, and improve leadership skills in this uncertain time.” 

Jordan Jesse Headshot Square

Jordan Jessie, MPAff '25

Focus Area: Racial equity's intersection with social policies

"My goal is shining a light on Barbara Jordan's political legacy, discussing the continued need for civic engagement and ethical boundaries in politics, and promoting a leader who exemplifies Jordan's work." 

Yulissa Chavez Headshot Square

Yulissa Chavez, MPAff '24

Focus Areas: Race and Democracy 

“Barbara Jordan's legacy is in civic engagement and courageous conversations that led to actionable items; I hope to inspire others to exemplify that."


More Events | 28th Annual Barbara Jordan National Forum

Barbara Jordan Freedom Foundation Luncheon Speakers

Barbara Jordan Freedom Foundation Luncheon: The Intersections of Public Service and Education in a Time of Democratic Uncertainty

Monday, Feb 19 | 12:15pm CT | SRH B.10 | RSVP Now!

Join the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Barbara Jordan Freedom Foundation for a special luncheon where policy-makers and community leaders discuss the intersections of public service and education.  We invite LBJ and UT students to join us for this lunch, as we dive deeper into the life and legacy of former Congresswoman and UT Professor Barbara Jordan. Speakers include:

Date and Time
Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, noon to 2:30 p.m.
Bass Lecture Hall, LBJ School of Public Affairs