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About Lee Pelton

President Lee Pelton

Lee Pelton came to Emerson College from Willamette University, where he served as president for 13 years.

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.

Since arriving at Emerson, Pelton has outlined an exciting vision for the College. In particular, he has focused on increasing Emerson’s institutional capacity and effectiveness, while deepening community engagement. He created new incentives and resources for faculty development, interdisciplinarity, global engagement, and innovation; promoted and renewed the College’s civic leadership; and improved financial planning and operations. He has overseen the creation of several new programs, including the Office of Research and Creative Scholarship, which set records for the number of grants and grant funds awarded to the College; HowlRound, a hub of communication and collaboration tools for research of the processes, challenges, opportunities, and best practices for developing new theatrical work for the national and international theater industry; and the Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning, and Research, further establishing the College’s commitment to neighboring communities and addressing a variety of issues of societal importance.

In March 2012, Emerson College broke ground on its architecturally stunning new 102,000-square-foot living-learning facility in the heart of Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard, dramatically advancing Emerson’s rapid growth as the world’s leading institution of higher education that integrates the arts, communication, and liberal learning disciplines.

Pelton began his academic career at Harvard University, where he earned his 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.

Over the years, he 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 Association of American Colleges & Universities, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Museum of African American History (Boston), the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, the Boston Arts Academy (vice chair), and the Council of Independent Colleges. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Museum of Fine Arts and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston).