Foundation Transitions

Earl Lewis to Step Down as Foundation President in March

Mellon Foundation President Earl Lewis will step down in March 2018 after five productive years at the helm.

At the completion of his five-year term, Lewis will return to the academy, and launch a new initiative, The Center for Social Solutions, to focus efforts on three core areas of concern — race and diversity; water; and the future of work. He expects to announce more details in the new year.

Widely respected, Lewis has been an important leader for issues the Foundation cares about. During his tenure, the Foundation made grants totaling more than $1.2 billion as he spearheaded the implementation of the first strategic plan, reshaped key program areas, and expanded the number and types of grantees supported. He also launched a range of important initiatives, including the Mellon Research Forum and the Our Compelling Interests book series and initiative, which investigates how diversity and social connectedness are imperative to our shared success and a broader sense of prosperity. This initiative, which he will continue to co-lead with Nancy Cantor, will anchor the work of the proposed new center and be supported by the Foundation.

Lewis became the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s sixth President in March 2013. Prior to joining The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Lewis served as a Trustee of the Foundation and as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of History and African American Studies at Emory University. A noted social historian, Lewis has held faculty appointments at the University of California at Berkeley (1984–89), and the University of Michigan (1989–2004). A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and author or editor of several books, he 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.

As President, Lewis has provided dedicated service to the mission of the Foundation advancing the causes of the arts, humanities, higher education, and diversity with determination and imagination. The Foundation looks forward to celebrating Lewis’ legacy and his many contributions to the Foundation in March. The Board will be initiating a search for Lewis’ successor.

Other Transitions

Karen Brooks Hopkins Concludes Senior Fellowship

Since 2015, the Mellon Foundation has invited individuals to pursue research and work with Foundation colleagues on shared interests through a senior fellowship.

Karen Brooks Hopkins, president emerita of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), concludes her two-year senior fellowship this month. During her time at the Foundation, she explored one of her core interests: the critical role of the arts as a source of urban revitalization. She shared her findings in op-eds, feature articles, blogs, as a guest lecturer, by hosting a series of convenings of stakeholders featured in her fellowship research on anchor cultural institutions in low income communities; and at a conference where attendees considered, “How can anchor cultural institutions in low income communities and communities in transition make maximum social, artistic, and economic impact?”

Dianne S. Harris Appointed Senior Program Officer

Dianne S. Harris will join the Foundation as a senior program officer in Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities on November 1. Harris has been dean for the College of Humanities and a history professor at the University of Utah since 2015. Prior to her appointment at the University of Utah, Harris was director of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) and a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Harris has been the Principal Investigator for several grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, including a grant to create Humanities Without Walls, a consortium of humanities centers at 15 research-extensive universities throughout the Midwest and beyond—an unprecedented experiment in cross-institutional collaboration in the humanities and arts.

William D. Adams and Michael McPherson Join Foundation as Senior Fellows

On August 1, William D. Adams, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), joined the Foundation as a senior fellow. Adams was the tenth chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 2014 to 2017. Prior to joining NEH, Adams served as president of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, from 2000 until his retirement on June 30, 2014. He also served as president of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, from 1995 to 2000. During his fellowship, he will assist the Foundation with projects that might benefit from his experiences at NEH and in higher education while also advancing his own research and writing.

On October 1, Michael S. McPherson, president emeritus of the Spencer Foundation, will begin a one-year term as senior fellow. Prior to joining the Spencer Foundation in 2003, he served as President of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, for seven years. A nationally recognized economist with a focus on the interplay between education and economics, McPherson spent the 22 years prior to his Macalester presidency as professor of economics, chairman of the economics department, and dean of faculty at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. During his residency, he will complete a book of essays reflecting on what he learned about philanthropy and education during his fourteen years at the helm of the Spencer Foundation. McPherson also co-chairs, with William Damon of Stanford University, the advisory committee for the Mellon Foundation’s research initiative on the value of a liberal arts education.

Johnnetta Betsch Cole Named Senior Consulting Fellow

On September 1, Johnnetta B. Cole, former president of Spelman College and Bennett College, and recently retired director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, began a one-year term as a senior consulting fellow of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Cole will advise Executive Vice President Mariët Westermann and other colleagues at the Mellon Foundation on key initiatives and activities, particularly those related to the Foundation’s work on diversity, accessibility, equity, and inclusion in art museums and the academic disciplines related to the work of museums. Cole has had a long and distinguished career in higher education and the arts. Through her work as a college president, museum director, professor, and community advocate—and through her published works, speeches, service, and consultations with corporations and nonprofit organizations—Cole has consistently addressed racial, gender, and other forms of inequality. She is a Principal Consultant at the firm Cook Ross, and a fellow of the American Anthropological Association and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. From 2015 to 2016 she was the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors. She currently co-chairs the American Alliance of Museum’s Working Group on Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion and is a member of the Scholarly Advisory Board for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.