On my way out to the parking lot this afternoon, someone stopped me to let me know that Ted Lewis, long a member of Rice’s Chemistry Department, died this week. Lewis came to Rice just at the end of World War II, part of the wave of new young faculty who would go on to leave a major mark on the university in the decades that followed. There’s a truly lovely obituary in the Chronicle. It’s short, but it rings so true and I love the photo of him they’ve included.
When I think of Ted Lewis, I remember some very specific things. When he was still on campus in his later years, he’d eat lunch in Cohen House at what us young folks (I was still a grad student) called “The Old Farts Table.” As someone interested in the history of the place I used to wander over and eat with them on a semi-regular basis. I soon learned that Ted was an absolute treasure trove of information about Rice, but that he also enjoyed pulling my leg. This provided me with several good laughs as well as a good early lesson in the importance of skepticism when listening to emeritus faculty. He also, though, gave me a copy of his short history of Rice’s Chemistry Department that I still consult frequently.
My own favorite photo of him is this one:
I found it in the batch of pictures we got from the family of former Rice history professor Edward Hake Phillips. That’s Ted on the right, of course. Pat Phillips is next to him, and beside her are the writer James Dickey, who taught at Rice for several years, and his wife, Maxine. It was the fall of 1950 and they had driven up to College Station for the A&M game. On the back of the photo it says “On this trip was born the Rice Gilbert & Sullivan project.” When I first read that I laughed out loud—the faculty Gilbert & Sullivan performances were legendary and it just seems right that Lewis, a devoted music lover, would have been mixed up in their genesis.
Ted Lewis, RIP. Memory Eternal.