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M. Lee Pelton

President and CEO

M. Lee Pelton

Lee Pelton is the CEO & President of the Boston Foundation, one of the nation’s leading philanthropic organizations, with $1.6 billion in assets. He joined the Foundation in June 2021, after serving as President of Emerson College (2011-2021) and Willamette University (1998-2011).

Pelton began his professional academic career at Harvard University, where he earned a Ph.D. 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.

A well-respected thought and innovation leader, Pelton was inducted by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce into its Academy of Distinguished Bostonians in 2020. He has also received the Governor’s Award from MassHumanities (2020) and the Robert Coard Distinguished Leadership Medal (2021), and was honored by the Eos Foundation with a $100,000 racial justice grant in his name (2020).

He has also been frequently included on lists of civic leaders in Boston, most recently ranking 11th on Boston magazine’s 2021 list of 100 Most Influential Bostonians in his fourth appearance on the list (2014, 2017, 2018). He was also listed as one of the 50 Most Powerful Leaders in Boston by the Boston Business Journal in 2018 and 2020.

He has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Guardian (UK), Forbes, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Color magazine, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Diversity Journal, and countless media in America and abroad. He has been a guest on National Public Radio (NPR) as well as on NPR affiliates WBUR and GBH, and on television on CBS, ABC and Boston’s PBS affiliate television station, GBH2. He has received honorary degrees from the Urban College of Boston, Wichita State University and Tokyo International University.

Over the years, Pelton 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 National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Association of American Colleges & Universities and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts. In addition to his service as a Harvard Overseer, he has served as a member of the Harvard University Graduate School Alumni Council, the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility, Harvard Magazine, Board of Incorporators and several Harvard Visiting Committees.

He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce (executive committee, nominating & governance committee, co-chair), and on the Board of Trustees of public media pioneer GBH (executive, finance and compensation committees) and the Barr Foundation, one of the nation’s leading philanthropic organizations, with more than $3 billion in assets.

His previous awards and recognitions also include:

Boston’s 100 Most Influential People of Color (Get Konnected!, 2016)
The Rosoff Award 20/20 (The Ad Club, April 2016)
The Diversity Leadership Award (The National Diversity Council, October 2015)
The Sabra Award (Israeli Stage, November 2014)
Boston 50 on Fire, recognizing 50 leading innovators in Boston (BostInno, November 2014)
Speak the Truth Award (Student Immigrant Movement, December 2014)
Champion of Freedom Award (Freedom House, March 2012).

Pelton grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and resides in Boston.