News 12 at 6 o'clock, May 30, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.--- In just a few weeks, Paine College will be losing its long time president. At the end of June, Dr. Shirley Lewis is stepping down after 13 years at the private school. "I think I was in danger of being one of those presidents where people had to come and get you and say, look, it's time to go".
After 13 years, 13 graduation ceremonies and thousands of graduates, Dr Shirley Lewis says its time. It's hard to believe it's been that long since we first met Shirley Lewis.
We got to the presidents new home even before her furniture did- to talk about her hopes and dreams for Paine College. She told us- "I want to make this college known across the nation as the place to be..."
Has she succeeded? "I think we've done well, we're certainly known in areas we were previously unknown."
Areas like commencement speakers. She succeeded in bringing some very big names to the small school. Desmond Tutu and Bill Cosby just to name a couple.
Shirley Lewis also succeeded in boosting enrollment and enlarging the footprint of the campus.
Back in December, she presented the late James Brown with an honorary doctorate. "It was wonderful", she said. I'm so pleased we were able to award it. I'm so sorry we didn't get to award it in life."
And over the years... Dr. Lewis has been a bridge builder... reaching out to black and white alike. So what about the Augusta commission and race relations?
"Well, just like i say to the elementary school children... I love them, they can do it, have faith and do the right thing."
Dr. Lewis says the right thing for Augusta might be a whole new discussion.
"I don't think we've ever had a serious heart to heart about what's different about us. It's probably too painful, or maybe we'd just like to say that was then and this is now... let's just forget about that. i don't think it works that easily."
And for Dr. Shirley Lewis there's nothing easy about retiring either. Not even deciding where to go from here. "Our kids are in New Jersey. They've informed us we're moving to New Jersey- which we think is hilarious.
Old people don't move to New Jersey, they move from the north to the south."
No matter where Shirley Lewis and her husband Ron decide to live, she's already thinking about her next assignment. It's a book about her life, but told from her parents point of view. Parents who divorced when she was very young and still managed to raise a very successful daughter.
Paine's loss is Augusta's loss.