Adele Simmons is Vice-Chair of Chicago Metropolis 2020 where she focuses on early childhood education. At Metropolis 2020 she is also providing leadership in the planning of the 2009 Burnham Plan Centennial, and serving as Vice Chair of the Burnham Centennial Committee. She is Co-Chair of the Task Force that is developing a Climate Action Plan for the City of Chicago, at the request of the mayor. She served as a Co-Chair of the Council on Global Affairs study group on Chicago's global future. The Study Group's Report, Global Edge, was released in the fall of 2007.
Simmons was President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for a decade, overseeing grants of over $1.5 billion, including an annual $25 million program for Chicago. The Foundation's international programs focus on the environment, population, international peace and security, understanding inequality within and among nations, and climate change.
Simmons is currently on the Board of Marsh and McLennan Companies, ShoreBank Corporation, ShoreBank International Ltd., and a number of nonprofit organizations, including The Field Museum, The National Museum of Mexican Art, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Winning Workplaces, the American Prospect, the Synergos Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. She is on the Advisory Committee to the World Bank Institute Global Equity Initiative.
She served on President Carter's Commission on World Hunger and President Bush's Commission on Sustainable Development, and was a member of the Commission on Global Governance, as well as the UN High Level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development. Before joining the MacArthur Foundation, Simmons was President of Hampshire College and taught at Princeton University