Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Carol Lewis retires from UAF
After 39 years with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, 10-plus of those years as dean of the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and director of the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, Carol Lewis is retiring. Oct. 26 is her last day.
Stephen Sparrow will serve as interim dean and director.
Lewis joined SNRAS in 1973. “I thought it would be an interesting challenge,” she said. “Agriculture in the U.S. was changing and developing agriculture in the state of Alaska is a challenge. The experiment station had been stagnant for five years and wasn’t matching the research needs of the state and I wanted to change that.”
Also, for SNRAS the curriculum needed to be revitalized and recruiting re-emphasized. “We needed to pull ourselves out of a downward sloping enrollment curve and I knew we couldn’t do that quickly,” she said. “It would take some effort and it has. Now we are headed in the right direction.”
Lewis came to Alaska with no real job objective in mind. She and John Lewis came to hunt and fish and enjoy the state. They decided to stay and Lewis accepted a research position at UAF with the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station to work with General Electric on the management and production and economic efficiency of agricultural products in controlled environments. She shortly became a member of the faculty, and also taught at Kenai Peninsula Community College. As a professor of resources management at UAF, she focused on conservation tillage, product marketing and on economic development in the natural resource arena including applications and systems for conventional and alternative energy in remote areas.
Lewis received her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Florida, and her Ph.D. in theoretical physics (ultrasonics) from Georgetown University.
While pursuing her Ph.D. at Georgetown, Lewis was employed by the U.S. Navy. Her job was to design a system for inspection of solid explosive loads for the five-inch guns on naval warships. The objective was to keep the loads from exploding before ejection. This was accomplished. Lewis holds four patents on ultrasonic systems that provide inspection for solid loads. They are used on gunships today. The USS Missouri was recommissioned with Lewis's loads in the ship's five-inch guns.
Lewis began her MBA work before coming to Alaska but completed the MBA at UAF. She served as interim dean of SNRAS from 2000 to 2002 and became dean of the school and director of the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station in July 2002. As dean and director she led the school and experiment station to focus on sustainable resource management in the circumpolar north including appropriate resource-based products and industries as well as alternative and renewable energy sources.
During her watch, the school and station established a reindeer herd as a part of the Reindeer Research Program, began work in biomass and bioproducts, developed new research, educational and outreach programs at the Palmer Center for Sustainable Living in the Matanuska Valley, including turf research and second and third generation biofuel research, led research on the Endangered Species Act for the state of Alaska and led research on controlled environment agriculture for northern latitudes.
Lewis served on the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, advisory board to USAID for six years, on the executive board for the Western Rural Development Center for eight years, senior Experiment Station Committee on Policy for one year, was chair of the Western Experiment Station Directors’ Association for two years, chair of the Board of Directors for the Agricultural Development in the American Pacific program for two years and currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. and serves on the Alaska Food Policy Council and the university's advisory board to the Center for Legislative Energy and Environmental Research for the Energy Council.
Lewis looks forward to spending more time with her husband John and their Dachshund, Hammer, and plans to play more tennis and write a book on agricultural research in Alaska. “That story has never been told in its entirety,” she said.
Professor Stephen Sparrow will be interim dean and director. He has been associate dean for eight years.
“I have a lot of experience here in the school and experiment station and at UAF,” Sparrow said. “Over the past 30 years I’ve gained a lot of institutional memory that will come in handy.”
Sparrow is a professor of agronomy who researches bio-energy crops and soil management. He holds a B.S. from North Carolina State University, a master’s from Colorado State University and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.
“My charge is to move the school ahead,” he said. “We’ll be revising the curriculum and planning a long-term sustainable financial plan.”