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Andrew W. Mellon Foundation President to Give 2017 Commencement Address

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Dr. Earl Lewis has been named the 2017 Southwestern University Commencement speaker.

Dr. Earl Lewis became the 6th President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in March 2013 after serving for eight years as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, and as the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of History and African American Studies, at Emory University. Under his leadership, Emory achieved the highest levels of both student recruitment and development in its history and positioned itself as one of the foremost sites in the country for digital humanities scholarship. His career as an academic also includes faculty positions at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Michigan. A renowned social historian, Dr. Lewis has championed the importance of diversifying the academy, enhancing graduate education, re-visioning the liberal arts, the role of digital tools for learning, and connecting universities to their communities. He is the author or co-editor of seven books including The African American Urban Experience: Perspectives from the Colonial Period to the Present, and the award-winning To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans.

Along with his exceptional gifts as a leader and visionary, Dr. Lewis’ profound commitment to the liberal arts and to higher education made him an ideal candidate to lead the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Under his guidance, the Foundation has reaffirmed its commitment to the humanities, the arts, and higher education by emphasizing the powerful interplay between continuity and change.

In its mission to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supports exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. It is my great honor to report that, during Dr. Lewis’ tenure, the Foundation has awarded Southwestern University grants totaling over one million dollars. These include:

  • A $700,000 Digital Humanities Grant in June 2013 to bring the emerging wealth of digital tools into curricular and research projects across the span of the humanities at Southwestern.
  • A prestigious $100,000 Presidential Leadership Grant in May 2014 to support President Burger’s work as Southwestern’s then-new president. This discretionary grant allows President Burger to support institutional interests of the highest priority. He has directed these funds to be used for student-faculty research projects in the humanities and humanistic social sciences.
  • A $500,000 Inclusive Pedagogy Grant in June 2016, supporting a partnership between Southwestern and The University of Texas at Austin, provides professional development for traditionally underrepresented Ph.D. candidates at UT and assists Southwestern in recruiting and hiring outstanding minority scholars to its faculty.

In our mission, to think, create and connect to make meaning and make a difference, Southwestern University has its closest partner in Dr. Earl Lewis and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. His defining leadership in the liberal arts serves as a grand example for our own groundbreaking work in higher education, and thus, it Dr. Lewis is especially deserving of our enormous gratitude as well as an Honorary Degree from Southwestern University.

Approximately 400 graduates are expected to receive degrees at Southwestern’s Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 6. For friends and relatives who are unable to attend, the exercises will be streamed live online. Details on how to watch the broadcast, are available here. Overflow seating and simulcast viewing also will be available in Room 105 of the F.W. Olin Building.

Commencement-related activities taking place on Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6 include:

Friday, May 5

  • Multicultural Recognition Ceremony, 2 p.m., Prothro Room, A. Frank Smith, Jr. Library Center
  • Phi Beta Kappa Induction Ceremony, 4 p.m., McCombs Ballrooms, Red & Charline McCombs Campus Center
  • Lavender Graduation, 5 p.m., Prothro Lobby and Atrium
  • Baccalaureate Worship Service, 7 p.m., Lois Perkins Chapel
  • President’s Reception, 8 p.m., Bishops Lounge, Red & Charline McCombs Campus Center

Saturday, May 6

  • Commencement Convocation, 10 a.m., Corbin J. Robertson Center
  • Reception with the Faculty, 12:10 p.m., Bishops Lounge, Red & Charline McCombs Campus Center

The complete schedule for commencement weekend is available here. The hashtag for this year’s commencement will be #SUGrad2017.

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