M. Lee Pelton: Focusing on Diversity

M. Lee Pelton takes a "personal interst" in diversity. As a black man in university administration, he has urged his colleagues to confront the issue.

He was appointed president of Willamette University in Salem, Ore., last year and promptly appointed a diversity task force and proposed exchange programs with historically black colleges.

"No institution of higher learning in America may confidently lay claim to greatness without diversity," he said Feb. 19, 1999, in his inaugural speech at Willamette.

But for Pelton, who got a Ph.D. in English from Harvard and served in the University administration, diversity is not the only challenge universities must face right now.

"All institutions are struggling over how to use technology for [instruction] without negatively affecting communication, without negatively affecting the face-to-face contact we so prize," Pelton says.

He says he is also interested in how universities teach ethical issues.

"I think that biology is the next great revolution of the twenty-first century," he says, "because we're not at the point where biotechnology and biogenetics are really reshaping how we think of ourselves as a species."

Pelton was a tutor in Kirkland House for four years, then senior tutor in Winthrop House .