Elizabeth Alexander

President at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander

President at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Biography

Elizabeth Alexander—poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, and cultural advocate—is president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder in arts and culture, and humanities in higher education. With more than two decades of experience leading innovative programs in education, philanthropy, and beyond, Ms. Alexander builds partnerships at Mellon to support the arts and humanities while strengthening educational institutions and cultural organizations across the world.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Ms. Alexander served as the director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, shaping Ford’s grantmaking vision in arts and culture, journalism, and documentary film. There, she co-designed the Art for Justice Fund—an initiative that uses art and advocacy to address the crisis of mass incarceration—and guided the organization in examining how the arts and visual storytelling can empower communities.

Over the course of a distinguished career in education, Ms. Alexander has taught and inspired a generation of students. She was the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University from 2015 until joining the Foundation in 2018. Between 2000 and 2015, Ms. Alexander taught at Yale University, where she was a professor in the departments of African American Studies, American Studies, and English, helping rebuild the school's African American Studies department while serving as its chair for four years. In 2015, she was appointed Yale University's inaugural Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry. At Smith College, Ms. Alexander was the Grace Hazard Conkling Poet-in-Residence and the inaugural director of the Poetry Center. While an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, she was awarded the Quantrell Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

An author or co-author of fourteen books, Ms. Alexander was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize: for poetry with American Sublime and for biography with her 2015 memoir, The Light of the World. Her poetry and essays include Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems, 1990–2010 (2010), Power and Possibility: Essays, Reviews, Interviews (2007), American Sublime (2005), The Black Interior: Essays (2004), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), Body of Life (1996), and The Venus Hottentot (1990). Accolades for her work include the Jackson Poetry Prize, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the George Kent Award, the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and three Pushcart Prizes for Poetry. In 2009, Ms. Alexander composed and delivered a poem, "Praise Song for the Day," for President Barack Obama's inauguration.

Alexander earned a BA from Yale University, an MA from Boston University, and a PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania. She holds honorary doctorates from Yale University, Haverford College, Simmons College, and the College of St. Benedict. Ms. Alexander is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and serves on the board of the Pulitzer Prize.

Overview
Career Highlights

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

RelSci Relationships

2528

Number of Boards

1

Contact Data
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Relationships
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Director at Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

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Chief Financial Officer at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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Chief Investment Officer at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, General Counsel & Secretary at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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Deputy General Counsel at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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Director of Institutional Research at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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Director of Investment Accounting at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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Director of Accounting at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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Director of Communications at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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Director of Information Technology at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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Elizabeth Alexander
President at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Memberships
Member
2019 - Current

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs. With a current membership of 4,000 American Fellows and 600 Foreign Honorary Members, the Academy has four major goals: Promoting service and study through analysis of critical social and intellectual issues and the development of practical policy alternatives; Fostering public engagement and the exchange of ideas with meetings, conferences, and symposia bringing diverse perspectives to the examination of issues of common concern; Mentoring a new generation of scholars and thinkers through the Visiting Scholars Program and Hellman Fellowship Program; Honoring excellence by electing to membership men and women in a broad range of disciplines and professions. Click here to learn about our new members. The Academy's headquarters are in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With its geographically diverse membership, it conducts activities in this country and abroad

Career History
President
2018 - Current

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation currently makes grants in five core program areas: Higher Education and Scholarship Scholarly Communications and Information Technology Art History, Conservation, and Museums Performing Arts Conservation and the Environment Within each of its core programs, the Foundation concentrates most of its grantmaking in a few areas. Institutions and programs receiving support are often leaders in fields of Foundation activity, but they may also be promising newcomers, or in a position to demonstrate new ways of overcoming obstacles to achieve program goals. Our grantmaking philosophy is to build, strengthen and sustain institutions and their core capacities, rather than be a source for narrowly defined projects. As such, we develop thoughtful, long-term collaborations with grant recipients and invest sufficient funds for an extended period to accomplish the purpose at hand and achieve meaningful results.

Director, Creativity & Free Expression
2015 - 2018

The Ford Foundation supports visionary leaders and organizations on the frontlines of social change worldwide. We believe all people should have the opportunity to reach their full potential, contribute to society, and have voice in the decisions that affect them. We believe the best way to achieve these goals is to encourage initiatives by those living and working closest to where problems are located; to promote collaboration among the nonprofit, government and business sectors; and to ensure participation by men and women from diverse communities and all levels of society. In our experience, such activities help build common understanding, enhance excellence, enable people to improve their lives and reinforce their commitment to society. We work mainly by making grants or loans that build knowledge and strengthen organizations and networks. Since our financial resources are modest compared with societal needs, we focus on key problem areas and program strategies. Created with gifts and bequests by Edsel and Henry Ford, the foundation is an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, with its own board, and is entirely separate from the Ford Motor Company. The trustees of the foundation set policy and delegate authority to the president and senior staff for the foundation’s grant making and operations. Program officers in the United States, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America explore opportunities to pursue the foundation’s goals, formulate strategies and recommend proposals for funding.

Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of African American Studies
Prior

Yale University is an American private Ivy League research university located in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States.

Boards & Committees
Board Member
2016 - Current
Member, Board of Chancellors
2015 - Current

The Academy of American Poets is an American private company located in New York, NY, that operates as an association which promotes poets and art.

Ex Officio Member, Board of Trustees
Current

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation currently makes grants in five core program areas: Higher Education and Scholarship Scholarly Communications and Information Technology Art History, Conservation, and Museums Performing Arts Conservation and the Environment Within each of its core programs, the Foundation concentrates most of its grantmaking in a few areas. Institutions and programs receiving support are often leaders in fields of Foundation activity, but they may also be promising newcomers, or in a position to demonstrate new ways of overcoming obstacles to achieve program goals. Our grantmaking philosophy is to build, strengthen and sustain institutions and their core capacities, rather than be a source for narrowly defined projects. As such, we develop thoughtful, long-term collaborations with grant recipients and invest sufficient funds for an extended period to accomplish the purpose at hand and achieve meaningful results.

Advisors
Advisor

Director at The Raben Group LLC

Events
Speaker
Aspen, CO, United States
2009 Aspen Ideas Festival

Aspen Ideas Festival, presented by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, continues to broaden its reach and engage with more people than ever before on ideas that matter. A major focus throughout the Festival, which opens today, is increasing live and on-demand video opportunities for online viewers around the world.

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