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About 2016-10-21T12:57:44+00:00

It All Begins With Self

Delano Eugene Lewis was born in 1938 in Arkansas City, Kansas, and was raised in Kansas City, Kansas. His was one of the last of the segregated generations in America–he lived in an all- black neighborhood and attended all-black public schools. Lewis’s father was employed by the Santa Fe Railroad; his mother worked as a domestic while studying to be a beautician. The personable executive recalled in the Washington Post that his parents were supportive and warm, but his mother gave him one bit of advice. She told him: “You can do anything in this world you want to do but sing.” Lewis took the advice to heart, indulging his love of the arts by learning to tap dance and by playing the violin and trumpet. In high school he was drum major for the band.

1960’s

Lewis attended college at the University of Kansas from 1956 until 1960. After earning his bachelor’s degree in political science and history, he went on to the Washburn School of Law, where he received a law degree in 1963. That same year he left the Midwest behind forever, becoming one of only ten black attorneys in the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. He spent two years with the Justice Department and moved on to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an ideal proving ground for young attorneys interested in local and national politics as well as civil rights issues.

1970’s

Lewis might have continued his career at the EEOC uninterrupted, but he began to show the experimental spirit that has remained a part of his personality to this day. In 1966, as racial tensions exploded in America, he joined the Peace Corps as a volunteer. His three-year stint with that agency sent him to Nigeria and Uganda, where he directed the work of numerous other field volunteers.

Upon his return from Africa, Lewis settled again in Washington, D.C., and began to consider entering local politics. He served as a legislative assistant for Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts and later held the same position in the office of Congressman Walter Fauntroy of the District of Columbia. These appointments–and a wealth of community service on various advisory boards and charities– helped to raise Lewis’s profile in the community. Finally he did run for a seat on the District’s city council, only to be beaten by Marion Barry, who would eventually become mayor of Washington.

1980’s

Upon his return from Africa, Lewis settled again in Washington, D.C., and began to consider entering local politics. He served as a legislative assistant for Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts and later held the same position in the office of Congressman Walter Fauntroy of the District of Columbia. These appointments–and a wealth of community service on various advisory boards and charities– helped to raise Lewis’s profile in the community. Finally he did run for a seat on the District’s city council, only to be beaten by Marion Barry, who would eventually become mayor of Washington.

In 1973 Lewis left public service for a job with private enterprise. He joined the massive Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company as a public affairs manager. Lewis told the Washington Post that C&P “wanted someone who understood local politics and the community.” He added that his immediate superiors in the company “didn’t particularly look like me … but I listened to them and followed and achieved. I learned the phone company.” The telephone company that Lewis had to “learn” embraces all private and business telecommunications in Washington, D.C.–including most of the massive federal bureaucracy. Traditionally, the large for-profit company has engendered customer antagonism, especially in the residential community, because of rate hikes and other unpopular business decisions. As Lewis rose through the ranks at C&P he addressed not only internal issues of minority hiring and promotion, but the larger public issues of cost-containment, expansion, and upgrading of service.

1990’s

In addition to his work at C&P, Lewis engaged in numerous philanthropic and developmental activities outside the office. Chief among these were his appointment to the Greater Washington Board of Trade and his efforts to create and implement a home rule charter for the District. He also used his fund-raising skills to promote such charities as the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation, the United Way, the YWCA, and Washington’s Arena Stage. In 1993 Lewis estimated that he had helped generate almost $180 million in charitable donations for these and other foundations.

Lewis’s career was the subject of much speculation in the early 1990s. Most observers assumed that the executive–one of Washington’s most prominent African American businessmen– would either move into the top ranks at Bell Atlantic or perhaps into a position within the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton. The October 1993 announcement that Lewis would take over National Public Radio, an enterprise about a tenth the size of Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone, came as a surprise.

Lewis took the helm of a financially stable network, the largest public broadcasting outfit in radio, early in 1994. A majority of NPR’s operating funds come from fees paid by the 480 radio stations nationwide that air NPR programming. Still, the fees account for only 65 percent of the annual budget. Other sources of revenue include federal grants and the increasingly important donations by private individuals and corporations. Lewis will be expected to use his fund-raising skills–especially in the greater metropolitan Washington, D.C., area–to generate income for the company. A new fund- raising arm, the NPR Foundation, was begun in 1993 to help spread the word about the network’s needs.

2000’s

In 1994 the Clinton administration formed the National Information Infrastructure (NII) advisory council in an effort to sort through the “implications of a changing telecommunications environment,” according to Library Journal. Delano Lewis was among the 27 members appointed to the council, which will help determine the shape and policy of America’s budding information superhighway. U.S. secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, as quoted in Library Journal, stated that the council’s main goal is to build partnerships in communication, thereby ensuring that the United States does not become a society of “information haves and have-nots.”

In 1999, he was nominated by President Clinton to become US Ambassador to South Africa. He served from 1999-2001 Awards.

Taking Delano’s words of wisdom to heart, I accepted that many professional and life decisions are beyond one’s control, and my mind opened to opportunities which I may not have otherwise considered.

Sean Pribyl, Washburn Law Alum

Several persons that I spoke with enjoyed your presentation and thanked us for inviting you to the Foundation. Yours is truly an inspirational story and I felt that your presentation at the Foundation was relevant, well delivered and exceeded my expectations.

Suren Dutia, Kauffman Foundation

In 1966, Lewis was offered and accepted a staff position, associate director with the US Peace Corps in Nigeria

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In 1966, Lewis was offered and accepted a staff position, associate director with the US Peace Corps in Nigeria

VIEW VIDEO

In 1966, Lewis was offered and accepted a staff position, associate director with the US Peace Corps in Nigeria

VIEW VIDEO

It All Begins With Self

How to Discover Your Passion, Connect with People, and Succeed in Life

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OCTOBER 6, 2016

TIME: TBD

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