Willard Deming Lewis became president after a distinguished career as a space engineer and research administrator.
Lewis came from a family that traces its American roots to William Lewis, an Englishman who settled in Massachusetts in 1640. His great-grandfather and grandfather were presidents of the Lewis Manufacturing Co., a textile firm in Walpole, Mass. His father owned Riverside Mills in Augusta, Ga.
At the age of 16, Lewis enrolled at Harvard. He earned three degrees there, and added two more from Oxford University in England, where he was a Rhodes Scholar in advanced mathematics. In 1941, he joined Bell Telephone Laboratories, and in 1962 he was one of four executives who started Bellcomm, Inc., in Washington, D.C., which engineered the systems for the Apollo project that placed the first man on the moon. He was granted 33 U.S. patents on such devices as microwave antennas and filter- and digital-error detection systems.
During Lewis' presidency, undergraduate women were admitted in 1971, and new majors established in natural science, biology, social relations, geological sciences and religion studies. Interdisciplinary programs were begun in computer engineering, applied mathematics, management science and American studies. Thirteen new research centers and institutes were established. Capital campaigns brought in more than $130 million. He is still Lehigh's longest-termed president, with a career spanning eighteen years.
A frenzy of building activity saw the completion of Maginnes Hall, Whitaker Laboratory, the Mart Science and Engineering Library, Sinclair Laboratory, the Seeley G. Mudd Building and Neville Hall, 13 fraternity houses, half a dozen residence complexes, and many more. Lehigh completed its acquisition of the Saucon Valley athletic campus and built the Philip Rauch Field House, Stabler Arena and other athletic facilities. Packer Memorial Church was restored, and Packard Laboratory was renovated.
The original Physics Laboratory is now named in Lewis's honor, as is the indoor tennis center.