Catawba College inaugurates Brien Lewis as 23rd president
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY - With a mixture of humorous quotes from Yoda and words of inspiration, Dr. Brien Lewis, spoke eloquently to the audience during his inaugural address.
In a formal ceremony on Sunday, Lewis was installed as Catawba College's 23rd president. The 3 p.m. ceremony was held at Keppel Auditorium.
Lewis jokingly referred to the "Star Wars" character as his favorite philosopher.
He likened the journey ahead to reaching the pinnacle of a mountain that would require "courage and unwavering determination."
"We stand at the bottom of the mountain together," Lewis said.
"Now is our time to flourish. It is time for us to reach our highest potential," he said.
Lewis said an exciting future faces Catawba College.
There were three past Catawba College presidents in the audience - J. Fred Corriher, the 19th president; Dr. Robert Knott, the 20th president and Dr. Joseph Oxendine, the 22nd president. Oxendine served as interim following the resignation of former president Dr. W. Craig Turner.
In addition to the past presidents there were numerous delegates from universities and colleges near and far in attendance.
Darlene Ball, vice-chairwoman of the board of trustees, said Lewis brings youthful energy, intelligence, a strong work ethic and a true commitment to the college.
Andie Lynch, head of the alumni board of directors, thanked Lewis for welcoming the college into his family.
Lewis' wife, Laura, their two children, Josh and Anna Louise, were in the audience as were many of Lewis' extended family and friends.
Lynch read a passage from the Mitch Albom book, "Tuesdays with Morrie," speaking about creating purpose and meaning, and devoting oneself to their community.
"You've brought new purpose and meaning to the college. I know you've barely scratched the surface," Lynch said.
Dr. Lyn Boulter, a Catawba psychology professor, called Lewis a "transformative and visionary leader."
The ceremony included performances by the Catawba Singers, a dance choreographed by four Catawba students and an original poetry reading from student Lizzle Davis.
The college's faculty brass ensemble and faculty jazz sextet also performed throughout the evening ceremony.
"From what I've learned of Dr. Brien Lewis he is someone who will be a most outstanding president. He will be a significant contribution to the community," said Dr. Albert Aymer, president of Hood Theological Seminary.
Student Lindsay King was one of 16 junior marshals who participated in the program.
"It's an honor. He's going to do an amazing job," she said.
Gary Williams, president of the Winthrop University Foundation, counted it an honor to celebrate Lewis' inauguration and the college's future.
"They have a fine man to lead them," Williams said.
Lewis served at Winthrop for 12 years in various capacities, most recently as vice president for University Development and Alumni Relations.
"He will truly be a blessing in the lives of the students, faculty and staff," said Kathy Bigham, vice chair of Winthrop University's Board of Trustees.
Alice Funkhouser Carrick's eventful 50th class reunion weekend of activities culminated with the inauguration.
She was excited to be able to return to the place that shaped her life.
"This college made possible the rest of my life," she said.
In her freshman year, Carrick met four women, suitemates, who've remained friends since that time.
Lewis, a native of Canada, attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar.
In 1989 and 1990, he was the university's student body president, the first non-American student to hold that office.
Lewis earned his law degree from the University of Toronto and was a practicing attorney from 1994 to 1999 with Wishart, Norris, Henninger & Pittman of Burlington.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.