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UC to Award Honorary Degree to Mellon Foundation President

Earl Lewis, a renowned social historian and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will receive UC's highest award at its Dec. 12 Commencement ceremony.

Date: 12/8/2015 12:00:00 AM
By: Rachel Richardson
Phone: (513) 556-5219

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Earl Lewis
Earl Lewis

Award-winning author and distinguished social historian Earl Lewis will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the University of Cincinnati’s Fall Commencement ceremony, set for 9 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 12, in Fifth Third Arena. The honorary degree represents the highest award from the University of Cincinnati.

A renowned scholar of African American history, Lewis was elected in 2013 to serve as president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the $6-billion philanthropy that supports a wide range of initiatives to strengthen the humanities, arts and higher education.   

Prior to that, Lewis became the first African American to serve as provost at Emory University, where he was also executive vice president for Academic Affairs and the Asa Griggs Chandler Professor of History and African American Studies. In that role, Lewis served as the Atlanta, Ga.-based university’s chief academic officer, overseeing its educational policies and priorities and faculty appointments.  

Before joining Emory University in 2004, Lewis held faculty appointments at the University of Michigan (1989-2004), where he served as director of the Center for Afro-American and African Studies and vice provost and dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and the University of California (1984-1989).

Lewis, who holds undergraduate degrees in history and psychology and a PhD in history, is the author and co-editor of seven books on social history topics. These include the widely acclaimed “Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White (with Heidi Ardizzone, 2001) and the award-winning “To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans” (2000).  

Lewis is the co-editor of the award-winning book series “American Crossroads,” as well as the 11-volume “The Young Oxford History of African Americans” (with Robin D.G. Kelley, 1995-1997).  He is the author of more than two dozen scholarly articles on race, ethnicity, social class, urban studies and higher education,

A native of Tidewater, Va., Lewis has been honored with honorary degrees from Rutgers University-Newark, Dartmouth College and Concordia College.  He is the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota and the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award from the University of Michigan.

Lewis will receive one of two honorary degrees awarded at the Commencement ceremony.  Businessman and innovator Gary Heiman will receive the other award.