Earl Lewis - Commencement 2015


Earl Lewis

Rutgers University–Newark is pleased to present this year’s Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree recipient and commencement speaker, Earl Lewis, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

As president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Lewis leads one of the largest foundations in the world, with more than $6 billion in assets. Headquartered in New York City, the foundation makes grants in five primary areas: higher education and scholarship in the humanities; scholarly communications; diversity; arts and cultural heritage; and international and higher education and strategic projects.

A highly regarded historian and one of the nation’s leading scholars of African American studies, Lewis has held faculty appointments at the University of California at Berkeley (1984-89), the University of Michigan (1989–2004), and Emory University (2004–2012). Before coming to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation he served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of History and African American Studies at Emory University. In recent years, Lewis has championed the importance of diversifying the academy, enhancing graduate education, re-visioning the liberal arts, exploring the role of digital tools for learning, and connecting universities to their communities.

The author and co-editor of seven books as well as the 11-volume The Young Oxford History of African Americans (with Robin D.G. Kelley, Oxford University Press, 1995-1997), Lewis has written numerous essays, articles, and reviews on different aspects of American and African American history. Among his books are In Their Own Interests: Race, Class and Power in 20th Century Norfolk (University of California Press, 1991); the award-winning To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans (with Robin D.G. Kelley, Oxford University Press, 2000); and Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White (with Heidi Ardizzone, WW Norton, 2001).  His most recent books are The African American Urban Experience: Perspectives from the Colonial Period to the Present (with Joe William Trotter and Tera W. Hunter, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), and Defending Diversity: Affirmative Action at the University of Michigan (with Jeffrey S. Lehman and Patricia Gurin, University of Michigan Press, 2004).

Lewis has been a member of several academic and community boards, founding co-editor of the award-winning book series American Crossroads (University of California Press), and since 2008, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A native of Tidewater, Virginia, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and psychology from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in history from the University of Minnesota.