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Lewis to Step Down as Catawba President in 2020

July 8, 2019

Category: Staff


Catawba College President Brien Lewis


Brien Lewis, president of Catawba College since 2012, will step down as Catawba's twenty-third president at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. In an announcement to the campus community, Lewis stated that he had advised the Board of Trustees that he will not be seeking a renewal of his contract beyond this academic year.

Lewis said he felt that it was best for his family and for the College to make the decision well in advance to give the Board sufficient time to organize a full national search and identify a successor for the 2020-21 academic year.

"Our family has enjoyed our time here tremendously and feel that the College has made a lot of progress," Lewis said. "Our children are now both in college so we would not be uprooting them, also making it a good time to consider a move. We have done much of what the Board asked us to do when we came, so overall it seemed like a good time to explore other opportunities."

Bill Graham, chair of Catawba's Board of Trustees, said that, "President Lewis has helped strengthen Catawba in many aspects, from the introduction of new academic programs and spearheading two successful fundraising campaigns to enhancing the College's national rankings and improving campus facilities. Brien and Laura Lewis have engaged deeply with our host community and they will be truly missed here. Catawba is in a better place than when they came, well positioned for our next chapter."

In his message to the Catawba community, Lewis said, "None of what Laura and I have been a part of would have been possible without your warm encouragement, advice, and collaboration. You have made it possible for us to help move Catawba forward and to tell the College's story. The College's leadership team, together with outstanding and deeply committed faculty and staff will continue to provide great progress into the future." Lewis said that he and his wife Laura will remain fully engaged throughout the next academic year and will continue to work with MindBodySoul: Catawba's Campaign for Growth as it continues towards a successful conclusion.

Lewis became Catawba's president in 2012 after serving as Vice President for Development and Dean of University College at Winthrop University in South Carolina. A native of Toronto, Canada, Lewis earned a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina where he was a Morehead Scholar and Student Body President. He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Toronto and practiced law in North Carolina before joining Winthrop University.

Graham announced that the Board is actively preparing to conduct the upcoming national search for Catawba's twenty-fourth president. "We will provide more information about the search in the days ahead," Graham said. "We will also provide opportunities for the Catawba community to receive updates and provide feedback throughout the process. We are confident that Catawba's recent progress and impressive institutional profile will attract excellent candidates."

Among Catawba College's accomplishments during Lewis's presidency are the following highlights:

  • Improved ranking in U.S News and World Report’s Best Colleges from 17th to 4th in the Southern Regional Colleges category.
  • Five consecutive Top 100 national listings in Forbes’ Grateful Graduates Index.
  • Increased traditional undergraduate enrollment by 13%.
  • Improved first-year to sophomore retention rate from 68% to 83%.
  • Fundraising campaign “The Forward Path” secured over $73 million, surpassing the goal of $60 million.
  • Initiated a second fundraising campaign, “Mind Body Soul: Catawba’s Campaign for Growth” in 2018 that has so far raised over $28 million towards a goal of $39 million.
  • Increased endowment from $39.5 million to $68.3 million.
  • Reduced College debt and reduced budget reliance on annual unrestricted gifts.
  • Created new School of Health Science and Human Performance and added academic programs including in Nursing, Education, and Environmental Studies.
  • Added new varsity athletics programs in Track & Field and Beach Volleyball, as well as a varsity Esports program.
  • Developed and implemented the largest solar power installation on any College or University campus in North Carolina.
  • Numerous renovations and refurbishments to academic and residential facilities including science building, library, and business school building.
  • Numerous renovations and refurbishments to athletic facilities including main gymnasium, softball field, locker rooms and new soccer complex.
  • Implemented a new central terrace in the heart of the campus including restoration of main fountain.
  • Enhanced and expanded Honors Program, internships, and international study opportunities.
  • Successful accreditation reaffirmation from Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and initial accreditation for School of Business from Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

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