Retirement reception held for Dr. Lewis
Published 7:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2017
Classy. Decisive yet passionate. A people person. All of these words were used to describe Pearl River Community College President Dr. William Lewis during his retirement reception Wednesday afternoon.
Lewis served as the Wildcats’ president for 17 years, in which he said “were some of the greatest years of my life.”
The Clinton native shared his fondest memories, spread humble thanks to everyone associated with the community college and shared his final thoughts on retiring.
“It’s a bittersweet time for me. People always say that you will know when the right time to retire is, but I have to admit, as I submitted my letter of resignation, I was not sure it was time. But the good Lord, knowing better than I, showed me recently that it is time for this college to go a new direction with new leadership,” Lewis said.
In Lewis’ tenure as president of Mississippi’s first community college, the school experienced exponential growth in enrollment, gained national recognition for excellence in education, produced a national championship in football and was widely known for its professionalism in the arts program. In fact, the retirement reception was held in what Dr. Aubrey Lucas, president emeritus at the University of Southern Mississippi, said was the “crown jewel of the campus” and a testimony to his leadership, the Brownstone Center for the Arts.
Lucas added that what made Lewis different was his leadership style.
“There was something magical about his leadership. He didn’t micro manage nor did he boss, but the people he worked with just knew and understood his vision,” Lucas said.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College and his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Southern Mississippi. Lewis said he developed many of his leadership skills during those years.
However, his leadership stemmed from his childhood along with his love for education.
“As a child, my mother would drop me off at school early. I would spend my days at the schoolhouse from 7 in the morning to 9 at night. I learned to love school and the importance it serves in all of our lives,” Lewis said.
Excellence was the first word that came to Lucas’ mind when speaking about Lewis. He described the retiring president as an aspiring leader who established a culture of excellence at PRCC and changed the lives of many students; achievements which Lewis said were his main goals as president.
Dr. Clyde Muse, president of Hinds Community College said that Lewis was not only a trusted educator, but a trusted friend who had a God given talent to serve as an educator.
“I watched him as he literally rebuilt this campus after Katrina. I saw how much it took out of him, but what I didn’t see was him quitting on the students, faculty or students of PRCC. He is a determined, respected, persistent and wise person that will forever be remembered as such,” Muse said.
Lewis leaves the college with no regrets and is ready for the next chapter in his life.
“I want to thank my family for always being supportive of me. There were times that I had to miss cheerleading competitions, birthday parties and other things because of work, but you were always pushing me to be a better me. I am blessed that I have such a great family,” Lewis said.
After being accustomed to being surrounded by an educational atmosphere, Lewis said retirement is going to be different, but is excited about being able to spend more time with his family and begin checking off his to do list.
Before the reception ended, Lewis thanked the PRCC administration, employees, family and friends for supporting him throughout his tenure.
“I am grateful for the path the Lord took me down and the opportunity to serve and make a difference,” he said.