Emerson College President Picked To Head Boston Foundation

The Boston Foundation board of directors has selected the successor to long time visionary leader Paul Grogan. M. Lee Pelton, Ph.D., will be the next president and chief executive officer and will join the foundation on June 1, 2021.

Pelton is president of Emerson College in Boston and has a 30-year career in higher education. Grogan will continue in the role until the transition.

“I want to offer my deepest thanks and appreciation to the Boston Foundation’s Directors, and to the remarkable Paul Grogan,” said Pelton via a statement. “The Boston Foundation has no equal, and I am deeply honored by the Board of Directors’ faith in my capacity to continue to grow its mission, and to lead the Foundation in addressing the challenges facing our city and region, promoting a just and equitable recovery from the pandemic and a long-overdue racial reckoning so we can build and sustain a vital, prosperous city and region, where justice and opportunity are extended to all.”

The Boston Foundation was established in 1915 and is one of the nation’s largest community foundations with net assets of $1.3 billion. In its 2020 fiscal year, the foundation received nearly $166 million in contributions. The foundation and its donors gave $215 million in grants to nonprofits via more than 1,000 charitable funds for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes, according to data from the organization.

Pelton was selected after a national search to find candidates who demonstrated strategic thinking and appreciation for the challenges that face our city and region, and who had proven ability to lead on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and experience running complex organizations, according to a statement from the foundation.

“Lee’s experience is impressive, but what spoke to me most was his determination to use all his skills in service of the causes he cares about and to help The Boston Foundation build a better Boston – to call everyone in and leave no one out. In Lee, I believe we have found an outstanding leader for this critical moment in our city’s history,” said Linda Mason, chair of The Boston Foundation’s board of directors.

Pelton has worked to address social justice issues. A common theme in his lectures, speeches and writing has been to ask people “to share our talents and resources with those who have not had the good fortune to participate in the bounty of life.”

Pelton grew up in Wichita, Kan., and graduated from Wichita State University. He earned a doctorate in 19th century English and American Literature and Languages at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. He taught English and American literature at Harvard and served as what is now called a residential dean of Winthrop House. Pelton later served on the Harvard Board of Overseers and as a vice-chair of its executive committee. After Harvard, he served as Dean of the College at Colgate University and Dartmouth College before serving for 13 years as the president of Willamette University in Salem, Ore. Pelton became president of Emerson College on July 1, 2011.

He was inducted into the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s Academy of Distinguished Bostonians earlier this year, received the Eos Foundation Racial Justice Award, and was chosen by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to receive the 2020 Massachusetts Governor’s Award in the Humanities. He is frequently cited on the annual lists of the most powerful and influential people in Boston.