Deceased October 11, 2020

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 In Memory

John Lewis truly led a life of purpose as a business executive, civic leader and husband/father. In doing so, his sense of humor, humility and concern for people shone through brightly. John was easy to admire and like.

John joined the class of 1955 as a sophomore after spending a postgraduate year in England following graduation from Kent School. His friends from Kent—Sam Davenport ’55 and Dick Wright ’55—quickly spirited him into Beta. It was a seamless transfer, although he never could fully appreciate those mutterings about “English 1” and what freshman riots were about. Hockey and economics were interests at Amherst, but most importantly, he found his lifelong companion, Cathy, at Smith.

Next came Michigan Law School and a move to Cleveland (near his hometown of Oberlin, Ohio) to join the prestigious law firm of Squires, Sanders and Dempsey. His specialty became the issues associated with secondary education. John remained there for more than 50 years, ultimately rising to managing partner. Inside the firm, he led the effort for diversity in the 1970s. Jews, Catholics, Blacks and women were actively recruited. 

Deeply committed to the community, John spearheaded downtown redevelopment efforts like Playhouse Square while also finding time to chair nonprofit boards at Case Western Reserve and the Ohio Aerospace Institute (“Keep NASA in Cleveland”), among others.

While accomplishing all of this, he and Cathy were raising a family of four children and big dogs. For relaxation and fun over the years, the Lewises chose to spend time at a cottage on the dunes (“It’s going into the ocean”) in Wellfleet, Mass., on Cape Cod.

John passed away peacefully on Oct. 11, 2020. The world is a better place because he was an active, talented participant in it. His many friends are glad they knew him. 

Dick Wright ’55