1998-2011: M. Lee Pelton

M. Lee Pelton

Dr. Marvin Lee Pelton was born in Wichita, Kansas in 1950. He received a BA in English and psychology from Wichita State University, where he graduated magna cum laude, and his PhD from Harvard University. He held administrative roles at Colgate University and Dartmouth College before being appointed to Willamette's office of the president in July, 1998. During his 13 year tenure, Pelton completed a capital campaign which raised $131 million. Two new buildings were constructed -- Ford Hall and Kaneko Commons. Several renovations were made to existing buildings, including the theater which now bears his name. Pelton increased the College of Liberal Arts' faculty by 20% to allow for the reduction of the teaching load and brought a greater emphasis to faculty research. Five academic ‘Centers for Excellence’ were created to promote interdisciplinary research, internships, and community outreach. During his tenure, the Atkinson Graduate School of Management expanded to include a Portland campus, the College of Law’s academic standings rose, and the Graduate School of Education was established. One of the most visible ways Pelton deepened Willamette's commitment to its motto, 'not unto ourselves alone are we born', was through the creation of the Willamette Academy, which reaches out to historically underrepresented communities and provides support to middle- and high-school students interested in attending college. Pelton's prior experiences at highly-regarded Northeastern liberal arts institutions shaped his leadership style and his vision for Willamette, where he sought to bring national visibility to Willamette's very strong regional reputation. His affection for students was abundant and reciprocated, achieving a near celebrity-like popularity over the course of his 13 year presidency with students.