Elizabeth Alexander Named President of the Mellon Foundation

February 8, 2018

Elizabeth Alexander at #AWP16Elizabeth Alexander, poet and nonfiction writer, has been appointed the next president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Mellon Foundation is a major supporter of the humanities, and is active in five core areas: higher education and scholarship in the humanities, arts and cultural heritage, diversity, scholarly communications, and international higher education and strategic projects.

“Through her work as a professor and mentor, Elizabeth knows the academic system well, and as an architect of interdisciplinary programs, she has deep experience in cultivating partnerships that extend and amplify creative vision,” said Danielle Allen, Chair of the Mellon Foundation Board. “A poet who brings an artist’s forward-looking energy to institutional purpose, Elizabeth is the right person for our times as the Foundation seeks to widen the community of stakeholders committed to the arts and humanities and to increase the resources dedicated to this work.”

Alexander has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in both poetry and nonfiction: for her volume of poems American Sublime in 2006 and her memoir The Light of the World in 2016. Alexander has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Anisfield-Wolf Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry, the inaugural Jackson Prize for poetry, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Alexander also served as the inaugural poet for President Obama’s first presidential inauguration.

Alexander is currently Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, and prior to that served as Director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation. She taught at Yale University from 2000–2015. Alexander is also Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and serves on both the Pulitzer Prize Board and the Advisory Board to the African Poetry Book Foundation.

“I have lived my entire life with art, culture, and scholarship as companion, guide, and discipline,” said Alexander. “I am guided by the justice values of increasing access to the power of higher education to open and strengthen minds, encourage human exchange, and thus transform lives. I am deeply honored to have been selected to lead Mellon. … I am excited for the work ahead of elevating the truth, beauty and rigor of the arts and higher learning and making them more accessible to all.”

Alexander was a featured presenter at the 2016 AWP Conference & Bookfair in Los Angeles.


Photo Credit: AWP, Alexander Presenting at the 2016 Conference.

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