Catawba College names new president

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 5, 2012

Brien Lewis, currently vice president for University Development and Alumni Relations at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., will become Catawba College’s next president, effective in April. The College Board of Trustees approved Lewis’ selection in early March, following a recommendation by the college’s Presidential Search Committee.
“Brien Lewis will bring a new level of energy and a wide range of experience to Catawba College,” explained Paul Fisher, chair of Catawba’s Board of Trustees. “During his 12 years at Winthrop University, he has served in a variety of capacities — in administration, advancement and academics — and has achieved success and the support of his colleagues at each step along the way. We are excited about the positive impact he will make at Catawba.”
Lewis succeeds Dr. Joseph B. Oxendine, a 1952 alumnus of Catawba and chancellor emeritus of UNC Pembroke, who has served as interim president of Catawba since the resignation of former president Dr. W. Craig Turner.
Lewis was the candidate recommended for the job after the Presidential Search Committee spent nine months reviewing and interviewing applicants. That Presidential Search Committee was chaired by Catawba College Trustee Bill Graham ’83 and included trustees, along with two faculty members and a staff representative. The committee was assisted in its work by the Charlotte firm of Coleman Lew & Associates.
Lewis and his wife, Laura, visited the Catawba campus in late February to meet with various constituencies. After receiving feedback from faculty, staff and students, the Presidential Search Committee recommended Lewis to the Board of Trustees which approved his appointment.
Lewis joined the administration of Winthrop University in 1999 as executive assistant to the president and secretary to the Board of Trustees. He remained in that capacity until 2004, advising the president, coordinating board policy and activities, and serving as a presidential liaison to a variety of university constituencies.
He was the founding eean of Winthrop’s University College between 2003 and 2007. Under his leadership, the University College combined new and existing programs in academic affairs and in Student Life to infuse student learning and success across divisional and disciplinary borders. Winthrop’s University College became the impetus for creation of the University’s Common Book Project, featuring required summer reading for all incoming freshmen, and the establishment of residence hall communities based on academic themes.
Under Lewis’ purview, the University College established an Office of Nationally Competitive Awards to support students and faculty pursuing fellowships and other recognition, and successfully sought TriO grants from the U.S. Department of Education totaling more than $2 million. These grants were used to fund educational assistance to first generation, low income and disabled students, as well as to help participants from disadvantaged backgrounds prepare for doctoral studies through involvement in research and scholarly activities.
Lewis also entered the classroom at Winthrop, serving first as an assistant professor and then as an associate professor of business administration. The subject matter he taught ranged from general education to employment law.
In 2008, he was named vice president for University Development and Alumni Relations at Winthrop and as executive director of the Winthrop University Foundation. These appointments were made after he had functioned more than six months in an interim capacity.
During his final roles at Winthrop, he restructured Winthrop’s development division and led it to raise over $35 million in gifts and pledges within a five-year period. He also oversaw revisions to the spending and investment policies of the Winthrop University Foundation to address the impact of economic downturn and to achieve long-term endowment growth and stability.
Before his time at Winthrop, Lewis, who earned his law degree from the University of Toronto, was a practicing attorney with Wishart, Norris, Henninger & Pittman of Burlington between 1994 and 1999. From 1998 until 1999, he was a certified Superior Court mediator for the same firm.
A Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Lewis received a full academic scholarship based on academic achievement, leadership and moral force of character. Between 1989 and 1990, he was UNC Chapel Hill’s Student Body President, elected by a student body of 23,000. As a Canadian, he was the first international student to hold that office.
Active in the Rock Hill, S.C. community, Lewis was a member of the Board of Directors of the United Way of York County, also lending his skills to that board as its chair and vice chair. He was the founding president of Early Learning Partnership of York County, a non-profit corporation established to continue programs initiated by United Way’s Success by 6 initiative. He served on the city of Rock Hill’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee between 2009 and 2011.
A member of St. John’s United Methodist Church, Lewis is a frequent teacher in Sunday school class, as well as a volunteer in the children’s classes and nursery. Lewis and wife Laura are parents of two children, 15-year-old son Josh and 12-year-old daughter Anna Louise.