Elizabeth Alexander, who was selected to write a poem and read it at President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, has been appointed president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York.
The Mellon Foundation is committed to five core program areas: higher education and scholarship in the humanities; arts and cultural heritage; diversity; scholarly communications; and international higher education and strategic projects. The Foundation seeks to broaden the role the humanities play in education, innovation, and civic discourse, by providing grants and strategic guidance to support educational and cultural institutions, research, and public humanities engagements.
In accepting her now post, Dr. Alexander said “I have lived my entire life with art, culture, and scholarship as companion, guide, and discipline. I am guided by the justice values of increasing access to the power of higher education to open and strengthen minds, encourage human exchange, and thus transform lives. I am deeply honored to have been selected to lead Mellon, an institution that has been devoted to these areas across its history, and to have been called to the crucial work of building community within and across discipline and institution.”
Most recently, Alexander served as the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities in the department of English and comparative literature at Columbia University in New York City. Before joining the faculty at Columbia, she served as the director of creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation.
Professor Alexander was a member of the faculty at Yale from 2000 to 2015. There she was inaugural Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University. The Iseman chair was the first endowed professorship at Yale dedicated solely to the field of poetry. Earlier, Dr. Alexander taught at the University of Chicago and Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Professor Alexander is the author of six collections of poetry and the memoir The Light of the World (Grand Central Publishing, April 2015).
Professor Alexander is a graduate of Yale University. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing at Boston University and a Ph.D. in English at the University of Pennsylvania.