Georgia State University alumnus Kenneth D. Lewis (B.A.,’69), a longtime donor to his alma mater, has made his biggest gift yet, a $5 million pledge to the Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing and Health Professions.
The nursing school was named for Lewis’ mother in 2003 when he created a major endowment funding faculty positions, student scholarships and teaching laboratories. The name carried over to the new School of Nursing and Health Professions, created in 2011. The late Byrdine Lewis worked as a bedside nurse for 46 years, much of it as a divorced mother supporting two children.
“I know firsthand how hard nurses work and how important they are to their communities,” Lewis said. “The many excellent caregivers, therapists and scientists who’ve earned degrees from Georgia State are making that legacy stronger every day. I’m proud of what they’re accomplishing, and I know my mother would be, too.”
Lewis credits his mother with instilling in him the values that inspired him to work his way through college, earn a degree in finance from Georgia State’s business school (known today as the J. Mack Robinson College of Business) and rise swiftly through the corporate ranks to become president, chairman and CEO of Bank of America.
“Like a lot of students, I was balancing classwork with jobs all through college, but Georgia State helped me get what I needed to succeed,” he said. “One of the reasons I’ve continued to support Georgia State over the years is because that’s still a huge part of their mission. They provide the kind of opportunities to working and low-income students that can change those students’ lives.”
Georgia State President Mark P. Becker expressed his gratitude to Lewis both for his latest pledge and for being a consistent champion of Georgia State’s mission for more than 30 years.
“We’re tremendously fortunate to have a friend like Ken Lewis who sees the uniqueness of what we do here and is passionate about sustaining it,” Becker said. “I thank him on behalf of the entire Georgia State family, not only the students, faculty and staff who are here now, but those who will benefit from his support well into the future.”
Lewis’ pledge is the type of gift Georgia State hopes to receive as the university prepares for a comprehensive fundraising campaign. It includes support for three chaired professorships as well as a series of awards for faculty achievement. Margaret C. Wilmoth, dean of The Lewis School, said these will be “invaluable to our efforts to recruit and retain the stellar faculty who teach our students to be prepared to fill new roles and meet the challenges of a rapidly changing health care environment.
“Graduates in the health professions are called upon to do more now than ever,” Wilmoth said. “We are preparing the leaders in nursing, nutrition, physical therapy and respiratory therapy for the 21st century. That’s not a responsibility we can afford to take lightly. Mr. Lewis’ gift will help us ensure that our students get the most up-to-date and comprehensive education possible, which will make a tangible difference in our nation’s health.”