Lees-McRae College alumnus endows scholarship in honor of former professors and late wife

Dr. Lynn Lewis ’75 has endowed a new scholarship so that students like him and his wife, the late Janet “Jan” Blackburn-Lewis ’76, can have an opportunity to earn a high-quality college education. The scholarship is named in honor of Lois Anne Harris and Kim Harris, two Lees-McRae professors who had a lasting impact on Blackburn-Lewis.

Natives of Ashe County, Lewis studied pre-dentistry and Blackburn-Lewis studied English at Lees-McRae. Lewis said that growing up in a rural setting meant he and Blackburn-Lewis didn’t always have the same opportunities as other students, but their time at Lees-McRae opened doors for them.

“I want these kids to realize, ‘Here’s what they did. They came from here,’ and now we’re trying to help them achieve the same things,” Lewis said.

Lois Anne and Kim were English and Theater professors at the college at the time Lewis and Blackburn-Lewis were attending and had a significant effect on the trajectory of Blackburn-Lewis’ life. When she first entered college Blackburn-Lewis pursued dental assisting, but after forming a strong relationship with the Harrises she decided to pursue English.

With the knowledge and experience she gained at Lees-McRae and from her relationship with the Harrises, Blackburn-Lewis went on to teach at Western Guilford High School in Greensboro, North Carolina for 34 years, greatly influencing the school and the hundreds of students whose lives she touched along the way.

Blackburn-Lewis had high expectations and pushed her students to succeed. She focused heavily on college preparedness and made sure her students were always striving to be their best selves. She continued to guide students in her professional and personal life until she passed away in 2014 from breast cancer.

“She loved her kids and would always say that her hope was that her kids did better than she did. She always said her role as a teacher was to instruct in reality and suggest dreams,” Lewis said. “What I’m doing is saying to Lois Anne and Kim, ‘thank you,’ because Jan can’t.”

The scholarship is named after the two professors who Lewis said had the most influence over Blackburn-Lewis’ life, but it is endowed in honor of her, and reflects the commitment to education espoused by all three educators.

The scholarship was announced on Saturday, April 23 at the reunion for Lees-McRae graduates from ‘75−’77 with over 60 alumni and the Harrises in attendance. This special moment allowed Lewis to thank the former professors who made such an impact so many years before.

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be of “strong moral character,” be a sophomore, junior, or senior at Lees-McRae, and maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. In this order, preference will be given to students who are residents of Ashe County, Alleghany County, Western North Carolina, and North Carolina. Lewis hopes that this gift will honor his late wife by providing an opportunity for students to thrive and receive a high-quality education at Lees-McRae.

By Maya JarrellApril 26, 2022