Nancy Duke Lewis (1910-1961), Dean of Pembroke College from 1950 to 1960, was born in Lexington, Kentucky on November 1, 1910. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kentucky and did graduate work at Syracuse University. She held an administrative position at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina before coming to Pembroke to be social director of the college and also to teach mathematics in 1943. She continued as social director until 1946, also serving as assistant dean from 1944 to 1947. She was Dean of Students at Pembroke from 1947 to 1949 and acting dean in 1949-50. She had given up teaching in 1948 to devote her time to administration. In 1949 she received a travel grant from the Carnegie Corporation to visit colleges throughout the country, studying their administrative and academic organizations, the first such grant which the Carnegie Corporation had awarded to a woman. She succeeded Margaret S. Morriss as Dean of Pembroke College in 1950. During her years as dean she brought national recognition to Pembroke College. She held national office in the American Association of University Women and was an active member of the American Council of Education. In 1960 she was elected Chairman of the American Conference of Academic Deans. She served Pembroke as long as she was able, until prevented from continuing by her illness with cancer. Professor Robert W. Kenny took over her duties as acting dean of Pembroke in 1960. Dean Lewis died on July 31, 1961. She had retired in June and was not able to be present when Brown awarded her an honorary LL.D. The citation for that degree read, “In you, we honor the gentle strengths and wisdom shaping the growth of the College and the University to which you are so devoted, the wise and unobtrusive counsel helping us each to see the right course, and the charm and grace brightening our lives and our work. The effect of your ideas and your example on your students will endure, and will spread through them to generations you have not seen.”
Her friend, Gretchen Tonks, assistant dean, wrote in the memorial minute adopted by the Faculty at its first meeting in September,
“As Nancy Duke Lewis lived her years on the Brown campus, she set forth an educational credo with far reaching impact. She constantly encouraged capable young women to seek a rich intellectual life. She exhorted them from her desk in Pembroke Hall, from the lectern in Alumnae Hall, and from the halls of colleges and universities throughout the United States, and, perhaps most graciously of all, by the example of her own life.
“She saw no conflict between the traditional role of women as wives and mothers, and the role of women in search of advanced scholarly degrees. She could not countenance the waste of intellectual talent; she eagerly urged brilliant women to seek professorships and just as eagerly she encouraged colleges to employ women professors. Her most meaningful demonstration of this principle was her own final bequest to give support to a Woman Professor on the Brown Faculty.”