Catawba to install President Brien Lewis

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 18, 2012

Catawba College will install its 23rd president, W. Brien D. Lewis, during a 3 p.m. ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 28 in Keppel Auditorium on campus. Members of the Salisbury-Rowan community are invited to the installation that concludes the college’s homecoming weekend activities planned for Oct. 26-28.
Students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees will play active roles in Lewis’ inauguration ceremony. Representatives from each of these constituencies, along with Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson and the president of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, Dr. Hope Williams, will bring greetings. Music will be a key part of the program, as will a student dance performance and the reading of an original student poem, penned in honor of Lewis’ installation.
Although Lewis joined the college in mid-April, his appointment was announced in March by the College Board of Trustees after a Presidential Search Committee spent nine months reviewing and interviewing applicants. The 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 succeeds Dr. Joseph B. Oxendine, a 1952 alumnus of Catawba and Chancellor Emeritus of UNC Pembroke, who served during the 2011-2012 academic year as interim president after the resignation of Catawba President Dr. W. Craig Turner. Lewis came to Catawba from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., where he served as vice president for University Development and Alumni Relations.
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 dean 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, first as an assistant professor and then as an associate professor of business administration. The subjects 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.