During the annual fall conference held Monday, August 6, Lewis referenced the late Bart Giamatti, president of Yale University and the former commissioner of Major League Baseball, and Giamatti's thoughts on "the constant conversation" in higher education; Ben Franklin and his quote, "When you're finished changing, you're finished;" excerpts from a poem by Robinson Jeffers, "To The Rock That Will Be A Cornerstone Of The House;" and even Jerry Reed, from his theme song for the movie, "Smokey and the Bandit."
Lewis, who joined the college as president in mid-April, noted that he had passed a milestone over the summer when many faculty and staff were away from campus. He said that milestone might help to alleviate concerns that some had that he was too young for the president's job. "I turned 45 over the summer," he shared with a wry smile.
He also spoke about the milestones Catawba had achieved over the summer and enumerated the many reasons for employees of the college to celebrate. These milestones included:;
- Catawba being recognized by Forbes as one of "America's Top Colleges" for 2012; ;
- Catawba Baseball's trip to the College World Series; ;
- The naming of Catawba's men's and women's swim teams to Academic All-American Honors; ;
- Three ambitious Information Technology projects currently underway including a new laptop/desktop replacement program for faculty and staff, a network upgrade, and a bandwidth enhancement project; ;
- Successful completion of many summer camps on campus, including Tar Heel Girls State, Tar Heel Boys State, Leaders of Tomorrow Rotary Camp, athletics camps, and the National Youth Environmental Summit; ;
- The college joined the Billion Dollar Green Challenge by agreeing to set aside $400,000 over the next four years in a Green Revolving Fund to be used for energy efficiency and sustainability projects on campus; ;
- The renovation of the dining hall in the Cannon Student Center, funded by Chartwells, Catawba's food service provider; ;
- The renovation of Woodson Residence Hall, a hall used to house first-year students, that included new paint, new furniture, bathroom refurbishment and an exterior cleaning; ;
- Removal of bushes around buildings on campus for increased security, reduced maintenance and to protect the buildings' foundations from invasive roots; ;
- Installation of new banners on campus at Hoke Hall and the Abernethy Physical Education Center, plus the pending installation of some awnings on two buildings; ;
- The soon-to-be relocation of the President's Office suite to the Admissions Welcome Center area and relocation of the Welcome Center to the President's Office suite;
Lewis told employees that their participation in the strategic planning process was important. He said the institution would be working on an October time-frame to make a preliminary assessment of what initiatives on campus were important to take on first. The recommendations that come out of the process will be presented to the College Board of Trustees at their October 26 and 27 meeting. Quoting Will Rogers and noting the importance of the strategic planning process, Lewis said, "A vision without a plan is a hallucination."
Trustees, he said, would also be asked to make a decision on the 2013-2014 tuition and fees at their October meeting to allow time for the Admissions Office to get the word out to prospective students at an earlier time in the year.
He encouraged faculty and staff to recall Catawba's core principles as emblazoned on the college seal – scholarship, character, culture and service. He then shared lines from the Robinson Jeffers' poem to prompt employees to ponder Catawba's historic and ongoing mission to prepare "students to reach their highest potential while becoming responsible citizens with a zeal to enrich human life:"
"Lend me the stone strength of the past and [we] will lend you
The wings of the future, for [we] have them."
Fall conference concluded with a luncheon in the renovated dining hall and separate meetings for faculty and staff members. Classes at the college for those enrolled in the traditional day program begin on August 15.