LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 3, 2017) — Today, the University of Kentucky formally dedicated Lewis Hall, a living learning community and residence hall housing the new UK Lewis Honors College. The facility, which opened this fall semester, is named in honor of UK alumnus Thomas W. Lewis and his wife Jan, who gave $23 million to create one of the country’s leading honors programs. The donation is the largest single gift in UK’s history.
“Immersive and experiential learning prepares UK students for success beyond college, and those are the type of opportunities made available by the generosity of Tom and Jan Lewis,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “Over the last several years, we’ve seen incredible growth in students interested in — and positioned to — succeed in a robust honors experience. With the Lewis’ support, and the leadership of our inaugural dean, Dr. Christian Brady, the Lewis Honors College is poised to be a national leader in honors education — the type of educational experience that will ensure both a bright future for our graduates and the Commonwealth we serve.”
Located at the corner of University and Hilltop Drives, Lewis Hall is a five-story, 346-bed and LEED-silver certified student housing facility constructed and managed by Education Realty Trust Inc. (EdR). The gift from the T.W. Lewis Foundation is funding over 20,000 square feet of space dedicated to the Lewis Honors College. The space includes classrooms, a café, office space for faculty and advisors, and student support spaces, including a Center for Personal Development.
“This gift has provided us the opportunity to transform Honors at Kentucky,” said Christian Brady, founding dean of the Lewis Honors College. “As we build a world-class honors college, with a unique emphasis upon the holistic development of our students, the entire university will benefit and so too will the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In fulfilling the vision of the college to develop the whole student, we hope to become a national model for honors education.”
The Lewis Honors College is the newest college addition at UK, and includes leadership by Dean Brady and governance by college faculty. The college will not offer baccalaureate degrees of its own; rather, the Honors College curriculum and requirements will emphasize interdisciplinary approaches, methodologies and learning outcomes. UK Honors College students will all declare majors in other undergraduate colleges, but will graduate with the Honors designation on their diplomas and transcripts.
“As a student at the University of Kentucky, I have witnessed so much change on this campus. As an Honors student, the transition to the Lewis Honors College is one of the most exciting changes,” said Maya Woolfolk, a sophomore from Louisville. “The Lewis Honors College is offering so much more than just a beautiful living and learning space. The addition of the Center for Personal Development, new advisors and new faculty/course offerings will offer the support I need to be successful in and out of the lecture halls. It is clear that the University of Kentucky and Honors are dedicated to their students, and for this reason, I have never been more proud to be a Wildcat.”
Lewis, a native of Lexington, is a 1971 UK engineering graduate who went on earn an MBA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Lewis entered the home building business after graduate school and over the next 18 years was employed by a series of large firms where he gained practical experience at all work levels. In 1991, he began his own business, T.W. Lewis Company, in Phoenix, Arizona, which became one of the nation’s most successful home building enterprises, receiving numerous awards including America’s Best Builder, the National Housing Quality Silver and Gold Awards and America’s Best Design Center Award.
Lewis has been a longtime donor to UK, and recounts a deep affection and appreciation for the university.
“The Honors College gift that I have made to UK has been my most satisfying gift because it represents the intersection of things that matter most to me: my deep family roots in the state of Kentucky, my love for the university and my commitment to helping create future leaders,” Lewis said. “I am a seventh generation Kentuckian and my family has a long and proud history here. The four years I spent at UK were some of the best of my life — it was fun, it was educational and it was meaningful. I have a lot of affection — I would call it irrational affection — for Kentucky and the university, and I am confident that this gift will have a big impact on both.”
UK has had an Honors Program since 1958. In the last five years, as part of an effort to enhance the undergraduate educational experience while also improving retention and graduation rates, enrollment in the program nearly tripled, growing from 750 students to 2,100.
Transitioning the program to an Honors College is helping attract top-quality students and improve access for underrepresented students and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to educational environments otherwise reserved for students at expensive, private institutions.
“This is an exciting development, both for the University of Kentucky and for the entire Commonwealth,” said Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. “We are working to attract the best and brightest individuals and employers to our state and, with UK’s history of academic excellence, we are certain this program will help us do exactly that. We are grateful to Tom and Jan Lewis and to all who were involved in making this day possible. Kentucky’s economic future will be stronger as a result.”
“Today’s ceremony represents one more step in the journey we are taking as a community that places student success at the center of all that we do — as our state’s partner in crafting the future we want for our Commonwealth and as Kentucky’s university, the University for Kentucky,” said Mark Bryant, vice chair of the UK Board of Trustees. “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am proud to be on that journey of progress with you, and I want to thank all of those involved — particularly Mr. Lewis and his far-reaching vision — for the role they have played in making today possible.”