H-E-B Chairman Charles Butt has made a personal contribution of $1,000,000 to Prairie View A&M University in honor of University President Ruth J. Simmons. The funds will be used to support a university race and justice center.
President Simmons joined Prairie View A&M in 2017 after retiring as president of Brown University.
She was born in Grapeland, Texas, and grew up in Houston's Fifth Ward where she graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High School. She holds both a Master of Arts and Ph. D. degree in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard University.
Simmons also chairs the Board of Directors of the Holdsworth Center for Excellence in Education Leadership.
“When I learned of Mr. Butt’s gift, I was overwhelmed,” said President Simmons. “His generosity to the children of the State of Texas and his concern for the quality of education afforded Prairie View students is inspiring to us all. Our students can learn a good deal from his humanity and the manner in which he lives and practices his values.”
The university says the funds will be used to support The Ruth J. Simmons Center for Race and Justice. The center will be proposed for approval to the Texas A&M Chancellor and Board of Regents and the Coordinating Board.
Prairie View A&M says "the center will position itself as a multidisciplinary effort, drawing from an array of existing programs that can, together, facilitate greater understanding of racism and discrimination on the one hand and the need for justice on the other hand to strengthen and sustain civil society."
The center will:
- Encourage curricular innovation that helps students better understand how racial and other biases can impact their beliefs, affect their choices and shape their opportunities in life
- Offer educational programs for the public on how to combat bias in their communities
- Offer expert support for government and organizations seeking to understand how they can improve upon their efforts to assure a bias-free, inclusive environment
- Train individuals in leadership positions who wish to improve upon their leadership for inclusion
- Offer support for scholarship and research that adds to knowledge about new areas of injustice that are in need of urgent attention from policy makers and others, such as human trafficking