M. Lee Pelton

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Marvin Lee Pelton
Pelton in 2008
12th President of
Emerson College
In office
July 2011 – Present
Preceded by Jacqueline Liebergott
22nd President of
Willamette University
In office
July 1998 – July 2011
Preceded by Jerry E. Hudson
Succeeded by Stephen Thorsett
Personal details
Born (1950-09-27) September 27, 1950 (age 66)
Alma mater Wichita State University
Harvard University
Profession dean
Website Website

Marvin Lee Pelton (born September 27, 1950) is an academic administrator and college president. A native of Kansas, US, he held deanships at Colgate University and Dartmouth College before becoming president of Willamette University in 1998. He served at the Salem, Oregon school until 2011, when he became the 12th president at Emerson College on July 1.[1]

Early life[edit]

Marvin Lee Pelton was born on September 27, 1950, to Clarence and Rosa Lee Pelton. He has three sisters, LaDonna Dozier (neè Pelton) and two nieces, LeAndra and Brittany Dozier and sisters Teresa Pelton and Kim Pelton. He grew up in Wichita, Kansas, where he graduated from Wichita North High School.[2][3] His father worked as a laborer and later as a manager for the police department for the city of Wichita while his mother acted as a homemaker.[2] In 1974, Pelton graduated from Wichita State University.[4] There he earned a degree in English and psychology, while graduating magna cum laude with a focus in 19th century British literature.[4] He earned a doctorate in English and American literature from Harvard University in 1984.[5]


From 1974 to 1983, while working on his doctorate at Harvard, Pelton served as an instructor and teaching fellow in the English Department. After receiving his PhD in 1983,[4] he became Senior Tutor of Winthrop House, one of Harvard’s undergraduate colleges.[4] He left Harvard in 1986, to become Dean of Students at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. He served in that capacity until being named Dean of the College in 1988.[5] Pelton left Colgate in 1991, when he was named dean of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.[6] While at Dartmouth he was responsible for the largest administrative body of the school, and held an academic appointment in the Department of English.[4]

In July 1998, Pelton was appointed as the 22nd president of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, the first university in the western United States.[4] He expanded the faculty with 26 new tenured-track professorships and increased minority enrollment to 24 percent, up from 11 percent when he started.[1] The school built two new buildings, Ford Hall and Kaneko Commons, and purchased several others adjacent to the campus in downtown Salem, and raised $131 million in a fund-raising campaign.[1] At the end of the 2010 academic year Pelton left to take the same position at Emerson College in Massachusetts,[1] replaced at Willamette by Stephen E. Thorsett.[7]


Pelton holds or has held positions on several educational boards and committees including the American Council on Education, the Harvard University Board of Overseers, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Symphony, Oregon Health & Science University Foundation, American Association for Higher Education, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and National Collegiate Athletic Association.[4][5] Pelton serves on the board of directors of Portland General Electric, the local publicly traded electric utility.[8] He was married to Kristen Wilson from 1981 to 2005, and to Carol (Leslie) Pelton, manager of the Oregon Cultural Trust from 2006 to 2008. He has three children Clare, Eli, and Sophia.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Graves, Bill (September 8, 2010). "Willamette University President M. Lee Pelton will be next president of Emerson College in Boston". The Oregonian. Retrieved 9 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Haynes, Dana. "Willamette president feels at home here", Statesman Journal, February 14, 1999.
  3. ^ Guerrero-Huston, Thelma (May 15, 2011). "Graduates look toward the future". Statesman Journal. Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g College: "Biography of M. Lee Pelton", The New York Times. Retrieved on December 6, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c Carter, Steve. "The Monday Profile: M. Lee Pelton, Job: 22nd President of Willamette University", The Oregonian, February 17, 2003.
  6. ^ "Top Dartmouth Official Is Quitting, the Fourth in Six Months", The New York Times, January 7, 1998, p. B7.
  7. ^ Much, Justin (May 14, 2011). "New Willamette U. president returns to deep roots in Salem". Statesman Journal. Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  8. ^ Dr.M. Lee Pelton, Ph. D. Portfolio.com. Retrieved on December 6, 2007.
  9. ^ New manager chosen at Oregon Cultural Trust. topix. Retrieved on January 25, 2008.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Jerry E. Hudson
Bryan Johnston (interim)
President of Willamette University
Succeeded by
Stephen Thorsett
Preceded by
Jacqueline Liebergott
President of Emerson College
Succeeded by