First female president retires

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Last week, Shirley A.R. Lewis had 900 children, but on Monday she'll be back to two.

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<B>Shirley A.R. Lewis</B><br> <B>Age</B>: 70<br> <B>Family</B>: Married with a daughter and son-in-law<br> <B>Experience</B>: Retiring after 13 years as president of Paine College<br> <B>Quote</B>: "I view myself as having been a guardian."
Shirley A.R. Lewis
Age: 70
Family: Married with a daughter and son-in-law
Experience: Retiring after 13 years as president of Paine College
Quote: "I view myself as having been a guardian."

As the first female president of Paine College in its 125-year history, Dr. Lewis, who officially retires today, always considered the students to be her children.

Under her leadership, Paine attracted big names to speak with students. The list includes Bill Cosby, Danny Glover, Clifton Davis, Cicely Tyson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

But above all, Dr. Lewis said, she will remember the relationships she formed with her students in her 13 years as president.

"I think her love kind of trickled down to the faculty and staff, and that love trickled down to the students," said Shiona Drummer, a 2005 graduate who served as president of the student body.

Through that role she had the opportunity to work with Dr. Lewis and experience firsthand the bond the president had with her students.

Dr. Lewis is a "beautiful woman" with a great sense of humor, Ms. Drummer said.

She said Dr. Lewis' door was open to her students. Dr. Lewis even called to check on her when she was sick.

When Ms. Drummer was a freshman, the president already knew her by name.

"She definitely has led by example," Ms. Drummer said.

And she made an impression on more than just her students.

At the grocery store, people congratulated her on being the first female president, she recalled after coming to Augusta. And when she saw Archbishop Tutu in Cape Town, South Africa, after his speech at Paine, she reintroduced herself, and he bowed.

Now that she is retired, she plans to write her memoirs.

Dr. Lewis, 70, was born in Winding Gulf, W.Va., a mining town. Her parents divorced when she was young, but they were both active in her life.

She was introduced to higher education at a young age. Her mother worked as a maid for a family who lived in Harvard Square, and she later moved with her mother to Berkeley, Calif., where she would graduate from the University of California.

Dr. Lewis admitted that it won't be easy leaving her post now that Paine is in her "blood" and she has grown personally attached to the college.

"I feel as though I will always be a part of Paine even though I'm leaving," she said. "I'll be leaving physically, but I won't be leaving psychologically."

Her son-in-law asked what she will do now that she doesn't have her own administration, dining service and police force, she said.

That's why she has him, she joked.

Paine is continuing its search for its next president. In the meantime, Dr. Curtis E. Martin is serving as interim president.

"We're just hoping now to find someone who at least equals her," said the Rev. Nathaniel Linsey, a retired senior bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, a former Paine trustee and a 1948 alumnus.

He credited Dr. Lewis with obtaining more grants, offering more scholarships and expanding the college's facilities.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

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RegWmsATL
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RegWmsATL 06/30/07 - 08:36 am
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If she cared so much about

If she cared so much about Paine and its students, why didn't she give the college enough notice whereby the college could have conducted a timely search, found a successor and have had an orderly transition? Isn't that what most colleges do? Something here doesn't seem to square. Sounds more like a deep six than it does a harmonious end to a successful era. Where are the Chronicles investigative reporters? The people want to know.

jasall18
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jasall18 06/30/07 - 01:09 pm
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Other college presidents have

Other college presidents have left with a lot less notice than she has and things go just fine there. Paine should be no different. They will likely have a proper successor in place before the next school year starts.

education
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education 06/30/07 - 03:14 pm
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They did a story on Dr. Lewis

They did a story on Dr. Lewis months ago regarding her retirement. Did you miss that story? Check the facts first before commenting. She did not decide two weeks ago.

mjct1
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mjct1 07/01/07 - 05:03 am
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have you met dr. lewis. she

have you met dr. lewis. she is what you read. thank you dr. lewis for the service you rendered. thank you for your graciousness. there is an old spiritual that your life has answered. may the work i have done speak for me. may the service i have given speak for me. may the life i have lived speak for me. dr. lewis, it has!!!!

RegWmsATL
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RegWmsATL 07/01/07 - 10:59 pm
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Once we get beyond the

Once we get beyond the personality and emotion of this story, the issue has to be the management of a multi-million dollar corporation. Every CEO is accountable to it's directors and stockholders. Does anyone think that directors of a major corporation would purposely elect to have interim leadership unless there were indeed dire circumstances at play? Considering the economic impact that Paine college creates for the CSRA, it seems that the Chronicle never gave this story the attention it was due. Yes, there were lots of big names that set foot on campus, but how much cash did they leave? How many successful capital campaigns has the college had during the Lewis era? How many new buildings? Should the modular units on Druid Park be counted as a stroke of genius or as poor planning? These are tough questions, but they are the type that need to be answered if institutions and their leaders are going to be held accountable. At the end of the day, higher education is much more than warm and fuzzy relationships...it is big business and should be operated as such.

mjct1
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mjct1 07/08/07 - 08:23 pm
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Do you not remember the first

Do you not remember the first time the historical black college fund raising organization UNCF met here in Augusta. They were brought here by Pres. Lewis. I also ask that if you have facts of the situation in which you are talking about TheFramer, it would be good to point them out. On record, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Bill Cosby, The UNCF. This is what is necessary to prove fact or fiction. TheFramer, bringing to question, Did you give a financial donation to Paine and Dr. Lewis did not say thank you?

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