The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced today that writer, poet, and scholar Elizabeth Alexander has been elected its next president. Alexander will succeed Earl Lewis, who has led the foundation since 2013, and will take up the post in March.
“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's 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.”
Most recently, Alexander served as the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the department of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. Previously, she was the director of creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation. During her tenure there, Alexander co-designed the Art for Justice Fund, a $100 million fund launched by philanthropist Agnes Gund that aims to transform the criminal justice system through art and advocacy. Alexander is the author of the memoir The Light of the World (Grand Central Publishing, 2015), which was a finalist in 2016 for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; American Sublime (Graywolf Press, 2005); and The Black Interior (Graywolf Press, 2004); among other works. In 2009, Alexander wrote “Praise Song for the Day” and recited it at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, becoming the fourth-ever poet to read at a presidential inauguration.