Lee Pelton

Profile Updated: July 31, 2018
Residing In Boston, MA USA
Homepage View Website
Occupation University President
Children Clare, born 1989
Eli, born 1993
Sophia, born 1999
School Story

Biography of Emerson College President
Dr. M. Lee Pelton

Lee Pelton is the 12th president of Emerson College in Boston. He is a nationally and internationally known speaker and writer on the value of a liberal education and the importance of leadership development, civic engagement, and diversity in higher education. He came to Emerson on July 1, 2011, after serving for 13 years as the president of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

He is a well-respected thought and innovation leader, recognized in Boston Magazine’s May 2018 Power Issue as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Boston; May 2017 Power Issue: The 21 Most Powerful People in Boston Business and in its May 2014 Power Issue: The Power of Ideas: 75 Bold Thinkers Who Are Shaping Our City and the World. Other awards include Boston’s 100 Most Influential People of Color (Get Konnected!, 2016), the Rosoff Award 20/20 (The Ad Club, April 2016), the Diversity Leadership Award (The National Diversity Council, October 2015), the Sabra Award (Israeli Stage, November 2014), Boston 50 on Fire, recognizing 50 leading innovators in Boston (BostInno, November 2014), Speak the Truth Award (Student Immigrant Movement, December 2014), and the Champion of Freedom Award (Freedom House, March 2012).

Since arriving at Emerson, Pelton has outlined a bold vision for Emerson as the global hub for arts, communication and liberal arts. He has created new incentives and resources for faculty development, interdisciplinarity, global engagement, and innovation; promoted and renewed the College’s civic leadership in the City of Boston; and strengthened financial planning and operations.

Pelton began his academic career at Harvard University, where he earned a PhD in English literature with an academic focus on 19th-century British prose and poetry. He taught English and American literature at Harvard and served as senior tutor at Winthrop House. He later served on the Harvard Board of Overseers and as a vice-chair of its executive committee. After Harvard, Pelton served as dean of the college at Colgate University and Dartmouth College. He received his undergraduate degree from Wichita State University where he graduated magnum cum laude.

He has been featured in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, the Presidency Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, Color Magazine, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Diversity Journal, The Huffington Post and countless newspapers in America and abroad. He has been a guest on National Public Radio (NPR) as well as on an NPR Boston affiliate radio station, WBUR, and PBS affiliate television station, WGBH. He has received honorary degrees from the Urban College of Boston, Tokyo International University and Wichita State University, from which he also received the Alumni Achievement Award, the University highest alumni award.

Over the years, Pelton has been active in several higher education associations and cultural organizations including the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education (past chair), the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and the Association of American Colleges & Universities, Trinity College (CT.) and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts. In addition to his service as a Harvard Overseer, he has served as a member of the Harvard University Graduate School Alumni Council, the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility, Harvard Magazine, Board of Incorporators and several Harvard Visiting Committees, including the Committee to Visit Harvard College, which he chaired for more than a decade.

He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Boston Arts Academy Foundation Board (chair), the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, Facing History and Ourselves, WGBH and the Barr Foundation, one of the nation’s leading philanthropic organizations, with more than $1.8 billion in assets.

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Jan 27, 2019 at 8:17 AM
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Oct 01, 2018 at 1:46 PM

Posted on: Sep 30, 2018 at 10:24 AM

What do we need to get to the $2500 for a scholarship?

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Oct 09, 2018 at 12:52 PM

Posted on: Jul 20, 2018 at 11:21 AM

Lee (or should I say Marvin?): I hope you are planning on attending the reunion. I would enjoy catching up on the last 50 years, or so.

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Jul 20, 2018 at 11:15 AM
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Jul 20, 2018 at 11:09 AM
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Lee Pelton