Skip to content

Lee Pelton named 12th President of Emerson College

BOSTON, Mass. (Sept. 8, 2010) M. Lee Pelton, president of Willamette University and a former dean at Colgate University and Dartmouth College, has been named the 12th president of Emerson College. He will assume office July 1, 2011.

Pelton will succeed Jacqueline W. Liebergott, who established Emerson’s new campus on Boston Common and thereby revitalized the city’s historic theater district. Liebergott became president in 1993 and announced her intention to step down last December.

Pelton’s appointment was announced today by Peter Meade, chair of the Emerson Board of Trustees, who described Pelton as “a dynamic leader with an impressive record of accomplishment in higher education, a steadfast commitment to academic excellence and diversity, and what those who know him well describe as a calm but confident demeanor and a passion for stewardship.”

“We conducted an extensive, nationwide search that identified a number of excellent candidates,” Meade said. “After that comprehensive review, Lee emerged as the clear choice. He has the vision and experience needed to build on the extraordinary progress Emerson has made under President Liebergott and will take the college to new levels of achievement.”

Pelton is a magna cum laude graduate of Wichita State University and holds a Ph.D. in English from Harvard University, where he taught and served as Senior Tutor at Winthrop House. He has written extensively on higher education and is a highly sought after speaker on education, diversity and the liberal arts.

“I am looking forward to returning to a city I have always loved, to begin what I hope will be a long and productive association with another distinctive, cutting-edge and mission-driven college, one whose contributions to communication and to the arts I greatly admire, and whose values are happily aligned with my own,” Pelton said.

“While I love Willamette University and will always cherish the time I spent there, I am exhilarated by my new assignment at Emerson and look forward to serving as Emerson's president,” he added.

Liebergott said, “I want to thank the Board of Trustees and the members of the Presidential Search Committee for their hard work and for choosing a new president who has the right combination of experience and leadership skills to begin the next chapter in Emerson’s pursuit of excellence. I know that I speak for all of our students, faculty, and staff when I say we look forward to welcoming Lee to our community and to working with him in the months and years ahead,” she said. The members of the Presidential Search Committee are listed at the end of this release.

“I look forward to helping welcome Lee Pelton to the company of Boston-area college and university presidents,” said Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard University. “Lee is a distinguished Harvard alumnus and a highly respected former member of our Board of Overseers, and I wish him and Emerson every success as they launch an exciting future together.”

As president of Willamette for 12 years, Pelton is credited with increasing the University’s academic profile and national reputation and attracting outstanding faculty and students from across the country and the world. His accomplishments include:

  • Expanding College of Liberal Arts faculty by 25 percent to improve the student-faculty ratio, foster high-impact pedagogy, and support and expand faculty research and scholarship opportunities;
  • Planning and funding of Ford Hall, Willamette’s new energy efficient LEED Gold-standard, 42,000 square-foot digital arts academic building;
  • Dedication of the College of Law’s newly-constructed Carnegie Building, which houses the new Oregon Civic Justice Center;
  • Planning and funding a comprehensive renovation of the Theatre Building, which was completed in August;
  • Establishing and funding four academic Centers of Excellence: the Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology, Center for Asian Studies, Center for the Study of Democracy, Religion, and Law and Center for Sustainable Communities;
  • Expanding Willamette’s MBA program to Portland, Oregon;
  • Creating the Willamette Academy, an extremely successful college access and preparatory program for youth in grades 7-12 in the Salem-Keizer public schools, targeting those who are historically underrepresented at colleges and universities in the U.S.;
  • Successfully completing the University’s $125 million capital campaign (raised $131 million); and
  • Increasing the number of undergraduate applications from 1,800 to more than 8,000 per year.

Located in Salem, Oregon, Willamette University enrolls 1,800 undergraduates in its College of Liberal Arts and 760 students in graduate schools of law, management, and education. This year, Willamette received the Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll Presidential Award from President Obama, one of only six institutions nationwide to receive what is considered the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement.

“President Pelton has provided vision, inspiration, and leadership to create a more vibrant intellectual community,” said Steven E. Wynne, chair of the Willamette University Board of Trustees. “It is difficult to imagine Willamette without his leadership. His agreement to continue his service to Willamette through the academic year allows us to begin a thoughtful and orderly process that is designed to have his successor in place before the start of the 2011–12 academic year.”

Founded in 1880 and located in the heart of Boston, Emerson College is the only comprehensive college in America dedicated exclusively to communication and the arts in a liberal arts context. The College is internationally recognized in its fields of specialization, which are communication studies; marketing communication; journalism; communication sciences and disorders; visual and media arts; the performing arts; and writing, literature, and publishing. Emerson enrolls 3,453 undergraduate and 837 graduate students from 45 states and 50 countries.

Emerson also runs an academic-internship program in Los Angeles for students planning to pursue careers in the media and entertainment industries and related fields. To support and expand the 21-year-old program, Emerson plans to build a comprehensive center in Hollywood that will include state-of-the art academic facilities, a residence hall and facilities to service alumni and prospective students. Construction could begin within the next eight months.

The College also offers a semester abroad program at Kasteel Well, a restored 14th century castle in the Netherlands owned by Emerson. The program focuses on the history and culture of Europe that includes educational explorations of major European cities, including Amsterdam, Paris, Florence, Berlin, and London.

On September 23, the College’s arts organization, ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage, launches its inaugural season. This exciting new initiative will offer a diverse array of professional theatrical productions, films, and music from around the world at the College’s Cutler Majestic and Paramount Theatres and other venues. ArtsEmerson brings these performing arts experiences to Boston, making them available to the public and enabling the College’s students and faculty to work side-by-side with distinguished arts.

Pelton will be Emerson’s first African American president. Liebergott is Emerson’s first female president.


PETER MEADE ’70, Chair of the Search Committee, President and CEO, Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate
Peter Meade is chairman of Emerson’s Board of Trustees and a noted Bostonian, honored by many New England organizations and tagged by the Boston Globe as “the Boston go-to guy.”

TED CUTLER ’51, Trustee Emeritus and Chair of the Emerson Boston Arts Committee
Ted Cutler is an internationally recognized innovator in the travel industry and a Boston civic leader in the areas of education, the arts, and healthcare.

VINCENT J. DI BONA ’66, Executive Producer, Vin Di Bona Productions
Vincent Di Bona is vice chair of Emerson’s Board of Trustees and a four-time Emmy Award-winning executive producer, recipient of the Peabody Award, and a pioneer in comedic reality programming.

ROBERT FRIEND ’79, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Choice Ticketing Systems
Robert Friend is chair of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and representative to the Board of Trustees. He holds extensive experience in strategic and financial business operations with significant expertise in fundraising, marketing, sales, and technology.

JEFFREY GREENHAWT ’68, Vice President-Partner, Sunshine Wireless Company
Jeffrey Greenhawt is treasurer of Emerson's Board of Trustees. His company owns and operates media companies, including radio stations; radio networks; broadcast transmission towers; and Studio Center, a multi-city production facility.

JUDY HURET, MA ’69, Vice Chairman, Huret, Rothenberg and Co.
Judy Huret is a member of Emerson’s Board of Trustees, whose career encompasses management consulting, private investing, and work in the field of communication disorders.

AL JAFFE ’68, Vice President, Talent Recruitment and Negotiation, ESPN
Al Jaffe is a member of Emerson’s Board of Trustees and is an executive at ESPN. He is a parent of a 2007 Emerson graduate.

LARRY RASKY ’78, Chairman, Rasky Baerlein Communications, Inc.
Larry Rasky is vice chair of Emerson's Board of Trustees and has more than 30 years of experience in public policy and media relations.

MARILLYN ZACHARIS, Advocate for the Arts, Education, and Conservation
Marillyn Zacharis is secretary of Emerson's Board of Trustees and is active in the College’s development efforts, including the campaign that raised funds to support an 11-story Performance and Production Center.

CRAIG FREEMAN, Emerson College, Associate Professor, Visual and Media Arts
Craig Freeman uses networked and digital technologies to produce place-based virtual reality art, which has been exhibited extensively in North America, Europe, and Asia.

JERRY LANSON, Emerson College, Associate Professor, Journalism
Jerry Lanson is a writing coach and commentator on opinion pages, and is a former deputy city editor and peninsula bureau chief of the San Jose Mercury News in San Jose, California.

MAUREEN SHEA, Emerson College, Professor, Performing Arts
Dr. Maureen Shea teaches in the areas of directing, dramatic literature, and theatre history, and has collaborated with playwrights and composers on a number of new works.

DENISE KAIGLER ’85, Chief Marketing Officer, 38 Studios LLC.
Denise Kaigler is a member of the Emerson College Board of Overseers. Denise has nearly 20 years of experience in global public relations and marketing communications at leading multi-national consumer lifestyle brands.
COLETTE PHILLIPS ’76, Founder of Colette Phillips Communications, Inc.
Colette Phillips is a risk-taking, enterprising person who has pioneered diversity and multicultural marketing in New England.

BARBARA RUTBERG ’68, Emerson College, Associate Vice President/Director of Alumni Relations
Barbara Rutberg has worked for more than 25 years as a speech pathologist and has taught in the graduate program at Emerson College.

ADRIANA GUIDA ’12, SGA Chief Justice, Student Representative to the Board of Trustees
Adriana Guida is a sophomore at Emerson College double majoring in Writing, Literature and Publishing and Political Communication, in addition to being a member of the Honors Program.


(Visited 108 times, 1 visits today)



Leave a Reply