Noted social historian, award-winning author, and educational leader, Earl Lewis, is the founding director of the University of Michigan Center for Social Solutions. Also the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies, and public policy, Lewis is president emeritus of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2013-18), one of the premier philanthropies supporting the arts, humanities, and higher education. At Michigan, Lewis and colleagues in the center are addressing four core areas of social concern: diversity and race, slavery and its aftermath, water and security, and the dignity of labor in an automated world. Prior to returning to Michigan and before leading the Mellon Foundation, he served as the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Emory University as well as the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of History and African American Studies (2004-2012). Lewis was previously on the faculty at the University of Michigan (1989-2004) and the University of California at Berkeley (1984-1989). In addition to professorial roles and titles (Robin D.G. Kelley and Elsa Barkley Brown Collegiate Professor), he served Michigan as Vice Provost and Dean of the Rackham School of Graduate Studies (1998-2004).
As a scholar and leader in higher education and philanthropy, he has examined and addressed critical questions for our society including the role of race in American history, diversity, equity and inclusion, graduate education, humanities scholarship, and universities and their larger communities. A frequent lecturer, he has authored or edited nine books, scores of essays, articles and comments, and along with Robin D.G. Kelley served as general editor of the eleven-volume Young Oxford History of African Americans. He currently partners with Nancy Cantor in editing the Our Compelling Interests book series. That effort, published in partnership with Princeton University Press, investigates how diversity pairs with democracy to enhance the likelihood of shared prosperity. A member of numerous boards of directors or trustees, he was an Obama administration appointee to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, and is outgoing chair of the board of regents at Concordia College-Moorhead, vice chair of the board of the Educational Testing Service, and a past president of the Organization of American Historians.
The Norfolk, Virginia native is an alum of Concordia College-Moorhead, where he graduated with honors in history and psychology (1978), and the University of Minnesota (PhD, history, 1984), which honored him most recently with the College of Liberal Arts Outstanding Alumni Award (2018). Lewis is the recipient of eleven honorary degrees, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2008).