Dr. Michael J. Lewis, former vice chancellor for health sciences at East Carolina University, died Friday in West Virginia after a long illness. He was 70.
Dr. Michael J. Lewis
Lewis, a family physician by medical specialty, served as vice chancellor from 2002 to 2006. He then served as executive assistant to Chancellor Steve Ballard working on specific health sciences projects. One of those projects was the ECU School of Dental Medicine, which Lewis was instrumental in creating.
“Mike Lewis was a visionary leader who had the ability to inspire others to create a better future,” said Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of the ECU dental school.
“If it were not for Dr. Lewis’ vision and tenacity, we would not have a dental school at ECU today. We are fortunate to have known Mike and benefited from his leadership during the critical formative years of our school. Mike left many friends in Greenville, and he will truly be missed.”
Lewis left ECU in 2010 to serve as cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. He resigned that post a little over a year ago, citing health reasons.
Lewis was born in New Jersey, and his family moved to West Virginia when he was nearly 2 years old. He grew up in rural Raleigh County, W.Va., and earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering. He worked at Union Carbide in Charleston, W.Va., and then entered medical school at WVU. He was a solo practitioner in St. Mary’s, W.Va., for 10 years before joining the WVU medical faculty.
Before coming to ECU, he worked for the West Virginia higher education board, responsible for policy oversight of the state-funded health professions schools.
In his DHHR letter of resignation, Lewis expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve West Virginia. “My life has come full circle, from the chronically-ill child raised in southern West Virginia in need of health care to heading the department responsible for delivery of the same,” he wrote. “Serving West Virginia has been the greatest honor of my life.”
Lewis is survived by his wife, Mino, daughters Beth and Tana, and six grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Saturday at Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home in Charleston, W.Va.