Stephen R. Lewis, Jr., commonly called Steve Lewis or, occassionally, "Skeech", was president of Carleton College from 1987 through 2002, following the tenure of interim president David Porter. He is best-remembered for presiding over the "Assuring Excellence" campaign, which spent $158.5 million on college improvements, The college saw a dramatic increase in student applications during his tenure. His replacement was Robert Oden.
Steve Lewis was a graduate of Williams College (class of 1960) and did his post-graduate work at Stanford University. Before coming to Carleton, he had served as professor of economics at Williams (1966-1987), and also served as Williams' provost for a time during the late sixties and early seventies. Lewis held a particular interest in the economics of Africa, and was economic advisor to the government of Botswana. He wrote several books on African economics, the best-known being The Economics of Apartheid (1987), in which he argued that South Africa's system of apartheid had created an untenable economic situation.
Under the leadership of President Lewis, several new capital improvements were made to the college. New buildings erected during his 15-year tenure included Johnson House, the Center for Mathematics and Computing, Hulings Hall, the Language and Dining Center, and the Recreation Center.
Several long-standing and popular aspects of Carleton life came to an end under Lewis's tenure. As one example, the tunnels were closed "until further notice" in the spring of 1988. Though signs posted at the time indicated that they might be re-opened in the future, sections were almost immediately closed off to form storage areas, suggesting that there was never any intention to re-open them to pedestrian usage.
In the late 1980s, Lewis led the Board of Trustees in rejecting any consideration of divesting the college's investments of stock in companies doing business in South Africa, ignoring a petition signed by nearly a third of alumni at the time.
President Lewis was nicknamed "Skeech" during his first year as president. The humor page editors of The Carletonian, Joe Weismann and John Podeszwa, included a running joke that year of attributing absurd and erroneous nicknames to campus personalities. President Lewis was known variously as "The Shiv," "Scoutmaster," "Stephen X. Lewis," "Stephen Lewis III," and, in the April 15, 1988 issue, "Skeech." Weismann and Podeszwa continued using Skeech as Lewis's nickname for the remainder of that year, and the following year's humor page editors continued the trend. Cujokra also popularized the usage during the 1988-1989 school year. Weismann assured Lewis that "Skeech" is a completely made-up, nonsense word and was not meant to be malicious in any way.
- President Lewis presented a special recipe for pancakes in the October 13, 1995 issue of The Carletonian (Page 6). The pancakes were dubbed "The Prez's Pancakes" and were fairly healthy, containing mostly buckwheat, whole wheat, and oat flour.
- President Lewis and his wife Gail divorced during his time at Carleton. At the orchestra's Halloween Concert shortly after the divorce, he came dressed as the Lone Ranger.
- "It is inexcusable, irresponsible, and I think even immoral, that the president should take the position that taxes should not be raised on people like him, and me, and the others who have been blessed by good fortune, to help this country pay for the costs of rebuilding after Katrina (not to mention paying for the misbegotten war in Iraq)." ("It's Immoral to Think Taxes Can't Be Raised On Folks Like Me," Minneapolis StarTribune, September 27, 2005.)
- "Well, that was a bit on the elaborate side." (Quoted in "Lost Sheep Switch Schillers" from the May 10, 1996 Carletonian after he had, in order to replace a damaged Bust of Schiller for a new one, arrived on the iron bridge in the Arb in full evening dress, met with several people in ski masks, watched scuba divers bring the old Schiller up from within the Cannon River to the accompaniment of the Chariots of Fire theme, switched busts, and observed the new bust being taken down the river in a canoe to the accompaniment of "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley.)
- "I plan to play lots of pinball." (Response to the question "Where do you go from here?" about his retirement in 2002, in the Spring 2002 Voice.)
- "The question should not be, what are the best colleges? The real question should be, best for whom?" (In response to Carleton's No. 6 ranking in the liberal arts category in U.S. News & World Report's annual "America's Best Colleges and Universities" issue. "'Best' List for Colleges by U.S. News Is Under Fire," New York Times, August 20, 2001.)
- Becker, Seth: "Lost Sheep Switch Schillers." The Carletonian, May 10, 1996.
- Gunn, Peter: NNB, KARL, KRLX AM, and Tunnels, September 3, 1991. Item 11:11 of the Cobwebs conference on Caucus (NetID required)
- Young, Steve: Subterranean Homesick Blues, July 13, 1993. Item 41:0 of Cobwebs, as quoted by Ernie Ferskin.
- Weismann, Joe: Skeech and other illustrious nicknames, May 7, 1998. Item 85:5 of Cobwebs, as quoted by Eric Hillemann.
- Lewis, Stephen R: Rethinking Athletics and the Academy
- "The Lewis Legacy" - Article in The Voice
- "The Origins of Skeech" - Article in The Voice
- Books by Stephen R. Lewis, Jr at the Carleton Bookstore
|President of the College
Robert A. Oden, Jr