Earl Lewis

University of Michigan
Academic administrator; Historian
Leadership, Policy, and Communications
Educational and Academic Leadership

Earl Lewis is the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of history, Afroamerican American and African Studies, and public policy, and the inaugural director of the Center for Social Solutions at the University of Michigan. He became the sixth President of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in March 2013 and served in that role until March 2018. Under his guidance, the foundation reaffirmed its commitment to the humanities, the arts, and higher education by emphasizing the importance of continuity and change.

A noted social historian, and past-President of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), Mr. Lewis has held faculty appointments at the University of California at Berkeley (1984–89), and the University of Michigan (1989–2004). During his previous time at Michigan, he served as director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (1990-93) and Dean, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Graduate Studies (1998-2004). In addition, he held the title of the Elsa Barkley Brown and Robin D.G. Kelley Collegiate Professor of history and Afroamerican and African Studies. Prior to joining The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Lewis 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. As Provost, Lewis led academic affairs and academic priority setting for the university. He also 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.

He is the author and co-editor of eight books, including Our Compelling Interests: The Value of Diversity for Democracy and a Prosperous Society (with Nancy Cantor, Princeton University Press, 2016), The African American Urban Experience: Perspectives from the Colonial Period to the Present (with Joe William Trotter and Tera W. Hunter, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); Defending Diversity: Affirmative Action at the University of Michigan (with Jeffrey S. Lehman and Patricia Gurin, University of Michigan Press, 2004); Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White (with Heidi Ardizzone, WW Norton, 2001); and the award-winning To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans (with Robin D.G. Kelley, Oxford University Press, 2000. 

He has been a board member of several journals, companies, nonprofits and governmental entities, ranging from the American Historical Review to the American Council of Learned Societies and the Center for Research Libraries to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI). He is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; past board chair and regent, Concordia College-Moorhead and a trustee of the Educational Testing Service. Lewis has been the recipient of several honors and awards including honorary degrees from Alma College, Wayne State University, Bowdoin College, Berea College, California State University-Fullerton, Clark University, Southwestern University, Carnegie Mellon University, Rutgers University-Newark, Dartmouth College, University of Cincinnati, and Concordia College. Lewis received the B.A. degree (1978) in history and psychology from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, with honors, and the M.A. (1981) and Ph.D. (1984) in history from the University of Minnesota. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy in 2008 and serves on its Committee on Anti-Racism. He is a former member of the Academy’s Lincoln Project and he has served as a member of the Class V:3 membership panel (Educational and Academic Leadership) and a member of the Class V:5 membership panel (Scientific, Cultural and Nonprofit Leadership). On April 18, 2017, Lewis and Nancy Cantor presented their new book, Our Compelling Interests, in a Stated Meeting at the Academy. He contributed an essay, “Towards a 2.0 Compact for the Liberal Arts,” to the Fall 2019 issue of Daedalus.

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