Through a transformational gift from Earl “Skip” Lewis’66 and Barbara Lewis, Clarkson University will be establishing the Earl R. and Barbara D. Lewis School of Health Sciences for its growing portfolio of programs advancing careers, research and innovation in the healthcare sector. The gift was announced during Clarkson’s annual Board of Trustees weekend festivities with alumni and the campus community.
The couple are long-time donors to Clarkson, its healthcare programs and recreational facilities like the boathouse for crew teams on the Raquette River in Norwood. They also have provided the major funding for the Lewis Income Share Agreement Program, which offers interest-free financing to qualified students who agree to pay back a percent of their future earnings.
While business interests take them all over the world, the Lewis’ regularly come home to Barbara’s family farm in Fort Covington as well as functions with Clarkson University. Their acute desire to bring quality healthcare to the region began when a beloved family member was given a short life expectancy following a diagnosis of heart failure and sent home to live her final days. Through diligent advocacy and intervention from their son, a cardiologist in Boston, they found a solution to prolong her life and she went on to enjoy her life in the North Country for many more years.
This experience became a huge impetus for the Lewis’ and their family to engage in Clarkson’s health sciences programs and raised their awareness of rural healthcare challenges. “We have seen firsthand the need for more rural healthcare options and know the expansion of these programs at Clarkson can positively impact the quality of life for the many friends, neighbors and relatives we have in the North Country,” said Barbara Lewis.
“By ensuring resources in the health sciences for expanded educational offerings and practical research at the University, we can leverage Clarkson’s location and leadership in the North Country to continue producing health professionals whose education spans all boundaries,” said Earl Lewis.
Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins praised the munificence of the Lewis’ and their decision to provide an endowment that will found the new Lewis School of Health Sciences. “Over the last decade, the initial investments from the Lewis’ into our physician assistant and occupational therapy programs have already had a profound impact on healthcare options in the North Country as many of our healthcare graduates have chosen to stay in the region,” he said. “With this transformational gift, we are committed to ensuring that Clarkson University is a national leader in education and innovation for rural healthcare.”
The Lewis School of Health Sciences will begin by bringing focused leadership to three graduate-level programs: Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant, and Occupational Therapy. Clarkson Provost Robyn Hannigan will be fast-tracking a search for a founding dean to further lead the expansion of these programs and additional offerings in healthcare professions. “Many of our students gain clinical experiences across our region that begins in a small college town setting and takes them to our Three Nations backyard at Akwesasne and the foothills of the greater Adirondacks. Our location allows students to experience the uniqueness of providing healthcare in a more rural setting, from working with individuals who sustain farming or industrial injuries to highly-competitive athletes using Lake Placid's Olympic facilities. They learn the unique skills on how to address patient needs when distance and other barriers can be an issue,” she said.
Mr. Lewis retired as President and CEO of FLIR Systems in 2013, a manufacturer of thermal imaging and broadcast camera systems. He continues to serve as Chairman of the company’s Board of Directors. He received his bachelor of science degree in industrial distribution from Clarkson in 1966 and has attended post-graduate programs at the University of Buffalo, Northeastern University, and Harvard. He has held numerous positions on the Clarkson University Board of Trustees and currently serves on the Executive Committee. Barbara, SUNY Potsdam ’66, and Skip met their freshman year in Potsdam.