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Earl Lewis


Mr. President, I have the honor of presenting Dr. Earl Lewis, social historian and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Dr. Lewis, from your formative years spent in Southern segregated schools, you have built a scholarly career devoted to the field of African American studies. At the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where you were a faculty member and graduate dean, you became immersed in the legal fight over the university’s use of affirmative action in admissions, leading to a co-authored book, “Defending Diversity” — one of seven you’ve published, including the eleven-volume “Young Oxford History of African Americans.”

You have long championed the importance of diversifying the academy, enhancing graduate education, re-visioning the liberal arts, connecting universities to their communities, and the need for all of us to speak on behalf of the disenfranchised. These ideas you bring to your current role as president of the Mellon Foundation — which the Chronicle of Higher Education calls “one of the most important jobs in the humanities.”

The inaugural volume of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s “Our Compelling Interests” series illustrates that a diverse population offers our communities a prescription for thriving now and in the future. At a time when American society is swiftly being transformed, Our Compelling Interests sheds light on how our differences will become only more critical to our collective success.

Dr. Lewis, you are guiding the Mellon Foundation as it reaffirms its commitment to the humanities, the arts, and higher education. You are determined to underwrite research that demonstrates the importance of diversity in a democratic society, as well as the critical need to promote and defend the role of humanities in an increasingly inhumane world.

Mr. President, on behalf of the trustees, faculty, students and staff of Clark University, I request that the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, be conferred on Dr. Earl Lewis.