National leader in higher education to deliver sixth annual Lester Lectures

headshot of dr. ronald crutcher
Dr. Ronald Crutcher will present three lectures on the theme “America’s Achilles Heel: Inequality in Education as a Mortal Threat to Democracy.” Photo courtesy Dr. Ronald Crutcher

MACON — The Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Zeta Chapter of Georgia at Mercer University will host the sixth annual Malcolm Lester Phi Beta Kappa Lectures on Liberal Arts and Public Life April 20-21 in Newton Auditorium on the Macon campus.

Dr. Ronald Crutcher, a national leader in higher education and former president of the University of Richmond, will present three lectures on the theme “America’s Achilles Heel: Inequity in Education as a Mortal Threat to Democracy.” All lectures are free and open to the public.

“The Malcolm Lester Lectures have become one of the key sites for discourse about the state of American higher education. Presently, the role of universities as vehicles for diversity, equality and inclusion is under intense scrutiny, and Dr. Crutcher’s lectures promise to make the case that these interventions strengthen our democracy. Dr. Crutcher has been a trailblazer for academic equity throughout his illustrious career, and we are excited to host the conversation and to discuss these important issues,” said Dr. David Davis, chair of the Lester Lectures committee.

The series will begin April 20 with Dr. Crutcher’s opening lecture, titled “America’s Unmet Promise: Persistent Educational Inequities in the USA,” at 11 a.m. followed by “Developing Student Capacity for Engagement in a Democratic Society” at 6 p.m. The third and final lecture, “Sustaining Democracies: The Critical Role of Conversations Across Difference,” will be at 11 a.m. April 21. 

“As an educator, I have been thinking about the quiet but insidious threat represented by persistent inequities in the U.S. education system. My intention in this series of lectures is to engage a discussion about the causes of these persistent inequities, their impact on people’s lives, and the reasons our democracy and economy will be imperiled if we do not make changes as a nation to our limiting perspectives and policies,” Dr. Crutcher said. 

Dr. Crutcher writes and speaks widely on the value of liberal education, the democratic purposes of higher education, diversity and inclusion, and free expression on college campuses. He served as president of the University of Richmond from 2015 to 2021 and is president emeritus of Wheaton College in Massachusetts. Previously, he served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Miami University of Ohio. In August 2021, he was named a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute, a global nonprofit committed to realizing a free, just and equitable society.

Throughout his 45-year career in higher education, Dr. Crutcher has consulted with higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations, and corporations in the United States and abroad on issues related to organizational culture, especially bridging racial and cultural divides, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion.

He is immediate past chair of the board of the American Council on Education, a senator of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, a member of the board of the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES Abroad), and a member of the Board of Governors of Bard College Berlin. For the University of Richmond, he serves as a board member of the Jepson Scholars Foundation and the Spider Management Co. He previously served on the boards of the Posse Foundation, the American Association of Colleges and Universities and the Fulbright Association, and he was chair of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts. His thematic memoir, I Had No Idea You Were Black: Navigating Race on the Road to Leadership, was published in February 2021.

In addition to his academic career, Dr. Crutcher is a former member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and several other symphonies. For almost 40 years, he performed in the U.S. and Europe as a member of The Klemperer Trio. Dr. Crutcher began studying cello at the age of 15 and made his Carnegie Hall debut in March 1985. He was the first cellist to receive a Doctor of Musical Arts from Yale University, where he also earned his master’s degree. During his graduate study, he received a Fulbright Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellowship and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Miami University of Ohio, he has received honorary degrees from Wheaton College, University of Richmond, Colgate University, Muhlenberg College and Randolph-Macon College.

About Mercer University 

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. With approximately 9,000 students enrolled in 12 schools and colleges, on major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; medical school sites in Macon, Savannah and Columbus; and at regional academic centers in Henry and Douglas counties, Mercer is ranked among the top tier of national research universities by U.S. News & World Report. The Mercer Health Sciences Center includes the University’s School of Medicine and Colleges of Nursing, Health Professions and Pharmacy. Mercer is affiliated with five teaching hospitals – Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Piedmont Macon Medical Center in Macon; Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare in Columbus. The University also has an educational partnership with Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon, an engineering research center in Warner Robins, and Mercer Medicine clinics in Sumter, Peach, Clay and Putnam counties. Mercer is one of only 293 institutions nationwide to shelter a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society; one of eight institutions to hold membership in the Georgia Research Alliance; and the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit

Jennifer Falk is director of digital communications at Mercer. She edits and writes feature stories for The Den and examines web data and analytics to drive content decisions. She also creates and supervises the creation of content for primary University web pages and e-newsletters.