Catawba College Welcomes New President Brien Lewis
April 10, 2012
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A Refreshing Presence to the Campus Community
It has been roughly a little more than a year since Catawba College’s then-president, Dr. Craig Turner, announced his resignation from his position. And though deeply saddened by the news, the faculty members of Catawba realized that it was their duty to find a suitable person to fill the shoes of such a beloved individual. And, that is just what they did – they found Mr. Brien Lewis to take on the role as new president of Catawba College.
Using a search firm based in Charlotte, NC by the name of Coleman Lew, the school reviewed many candidates for the position. When asked what made Mr. Lewis stand out against the other candidates, Tonia Black-Gold (Chief Communications Officer), stated, “I think he has energy. He wants this job. We have challenges here at Catawba… financial, enrollment, our physical plant, all of those things together. And, we are not coasting on our laurels. We are an up and coming institution. Somebody who comes here will have to have a lot of energy; they will have to have their hands in a lot of areas in the college, and Brien is up for that challenge.”
It has been a time of speculation between the faculty, staff, and students of Catawba. Everyone maintained an open ear for the college’s announcement of the new president. Which school dynamic would he favor? Would he support sports, arts, or the academics more?
I remember my freshman year when an assembly was held for the freshmen of Catawba which featured a resident assistant by the name of Lucy. In this assembly, Lucy spoke of campus life and student interaction: “Yes, at Catawba you have you athletes, your singers, your dancers. But, you also have the . . . regular students. But, here at Catawba, no student is left out or placed above another.” It was this quote that stood out to me after all these years. And like me, many students feared that with a new president, the distribution of equality between different students would be disrupted. However, after speaking to Dr. Michael Bitzer, I was reassured that President Lewis would give all his effort to make sure that all students shared equality. “Mr. Lewis gives you a keen sense of ‘I am here,’” noted Bitzer. Bitzer explained that through a conversation he held with Mr. Lewis as he gave him a tour across campus, Lewis was aware of such dynamics and is prepared to dive directly into managing them.
Set to begin his position as president on the 16th of April, Lewis faces the task of restoring the campus financial situation while maintaining enrollment. Lewis was warned about some of the issues on the campus that he would have to take on as new president. Dr. Bitzer said, “We asked him in one of the meetings if it concerned him. And, he was very honest and said ‘yes,’ but he was up for the challenge. And, he sees it as a challenge. He has been quite successful in fundraising in Winthrop. We feel he had a lot of contacts to draw upon. And, I think that is going to be his number one priority – to focus on the financial situation and to focus on the enrollment situation.”
Then the question arose as to will Lewis be visible on campus, knowing that he has much to handle on the administrative side. “I could see him being in a lot of situations, and people just take it for granted. Well, he’s at a basketball game, or he is eating at the cafeteria or Smokestack Grill. He’s going [to] see himself as an integral part of the campus. And, I think that is something that this size of a school, that kind of position [needs]. Even though he needs to be off campus fundraising [and] meeting with folks, the times that he is here, he will be seen and be very visible,” stated Dr. Bitzer.
“He describes himself as an obstacle remover,” Black-Gold said. “And, he will be out and about on campus. And, though he has an office and will need to handle administrative things, he will be one to come around and see how everyone is doing. I think that will be very refreshing.”
It’s thought that not only will Mr. Lewis himself be visible and active on the campus, but so will his family. Mrs. Black-Gold stated, “He and his wife (a native of Burlington, NC), have two children together, a fifteen year-old and twelve year-old. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you see any of them around campus or at Catawbapalooza. I think we are going to see a lot of him, and I welcome it.”
“He will make you feel at ease,” said Dean of Students Ben Smith. “He introduced himself to a student as ‘Hi, I’m Brien,’ and it surprised the student that he was so personable.”
It is clear the Mr. Brien Lewis is up for the task of becoming Catawba College’s new President. A word that was mentioned time and time again is “presence,” and it is that presence that reassures everyone that he will handle the task with proficiency and efficiency. He will do his best to maintain the tradition that has been held for these many years, while moving us through these modern times.
Catawba College welcomes you, President Brien Lewis!