Lester came to Princeton from Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh. At Princeton he was a member of Campus and majored in the Woodrow Wilson School, writing his thesis on Soviet agricultural policy from 1956 to 1963. He was co-recipient of the Class of 1924 Award in public affairs.
Lester earned a Ph.D. in government from Harvard in 1972, then taking a position with the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., and later being appointed deputy associate director of OMB by President Jimmy Carter. Trained as an economist, he became a world-renowned researcher of nonprofit organizations, identifying them as a massive and influential, but understudied, “third sector.” He devoted 40 years to defining, measuring, and nurturing their roles, including authoring more than 20 books.
In addition to creating CCSS, he also served as senior research professor at the School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy, and as the founding scientific director of the International Laboratory for Non-Profit Studies at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
Lester also enjoyed playing tennis and sailing on Chesapeake Bay with friends and family, including his six grandchildren. The class offers its condolences to his wife, Lynda Brown Salamon, whom he married in 1965; their two sons, Noah and Matthew; and their families.