Lewis family commits $1M in scholarships for ASU honors students

The ASU Foundation for A New American University and Arizona State University President Michael Crow have announced a $1 million commitment from Arizona business owners Tom and Jan Lewis that will fund scholarships for high-potential student leaders in Barrett, the Honors College.

The T.W. Lewis Scholarship program is designed to cultivate the leadership abilities of promising Arizona students by providing not only financial support, but also self-awareness tools, career counseling and mentoring so they can be prepared for meaningful careers when they graduate.

portraif ot Jan and Tom Lewis

“Earning high academic grades alone does not guarantee that a student will succeed in the workforce," says Crow. “Jan and Tom Lewis have created a scholarship that gives honors students the tools they need to develop personally, professional and academically, and ASU appreciates their confidence in Barrett and our commitment to ensure that all students reach their full potential.”

Jan and Tom Lewis, through their family foundation, have awarded scholarships to more than 150 students from Maricopa County since 2001. This year, the family elected to concentrate its scholarship support exclusively on Barrett honors students.

That change makes sense for several reasons, says Tom Lewis. First, Barrett has built a reputation for excellence and innovation, and – unlike many universities known for their prestige and exclusivity – offers students a great value for their investment.

“We like the spirit of Barrett and the way it has the dedicated faculty – the engagement the faculty has. And the entrepreneurial spirit there is starting to impact all of ASU – that is something I appreciate,” says Lewis, who founded T.W. Lewis Company, an Arizona-based luxury home builder that has grown into a diversified real estate investment company.

Also, concentrating support on a cohort who will stay in-state will allow for mentoring and professional development that was not possible when students dispersed to colleges across the country, he says.

“Academic strength doesn’t always transfer to ambition and drive,” Lewis says. The scholarship’s mentoring, self-assessment tools and networking opportunities will help ASU to “better prepare our students for their lives” and ensure they don’t arrive at graduation headed for the wrong career – a scenario Lewis says he has seen before.

The scholarship will be available to 10 students each year, starting with the 2015-2016 academic year, and will offer $2,500 per semester, renewable annually over four years. Students will be chosen for their leadership and entrepreneurial potential, strong personal character, intellectual ability and financial need. The scholarship will cultivate students’ abilities through custom-designed honors courses, faculty advising, career counseling, co-curricular honors experiences like panels and speakers, an annual leadership and career workshop, community service projects and networking opportunities.

“We deeply appreciate the Lewis family’s investment in our Barrett students,” says Mark Jacobs, vice provost and dean of the honors college. “Private support from friends like the Lewises allows us to expand and enrich our programs – and that makes the lives of our students substantially better.”

Private support that enriches the academic experience creates an infrastructure for excellence, Jacobs says. That infrastructure may not be tangible – like the bricks and mortar that make up the Barrett complex – but it’s just as crucial in attracting and developing top scholars.

“The students at Barrett have great ability but without opportunities open for them, they cannot direct that ability,” Jacobs says. “The gift from the Lewis family opens many opportunities for top scholars that were not previously available.”