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Friday, December 03, 2021 — Houston, TX °

In honor of the Rice community members who passed away this summer

By Ruby Gee     8/17/12 7:00pm



Professor Ted Lewis and a few older faculty members used to lunch together daily at the Cohen House. To graduate student Melissa Kean, now Rice's Historian, they were a venerable bunch, since all of them had played major roles in Rice's post-World War II expansion.

"[Lewis] was remarkable for a number of things: He'd been at Rice for a really, really long time and helped build the chemistry department after World War II ... Ted had been one of those young guys who came in and stayed for a really long time, so he could give me answers that other people couldn't give me," Kean said. "He was happy to talk about it ... [and] he would patiently listen to me."

After arriving at the Sallyport with a fresh Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from Harvard University in his hands, Lewis spent 42 years of his life in Rice's Department of Chemistry as a professor, including two terms as department chair. An avid historian, musician, traveler and advocate for nature's conservation, Lewis left a lasting impression on the Rice community even after his official retirement in 1990.

James Kinsey (Hanszen '56) remembers Lewis most as the man who helped him shape his life's path by going out of his way to accommodate Kinsey's interests.

"When I was a senior, there were only three chemistry majors in my class, and one of the requirements was a course called qualitative organic analysis," Kinsey said. "Ted was supposed to teach it, and he didn't want to teach it any more than we wanted to take it."

So Lewis gave them an opportunity of a lifetime by offering them individual research projects in modern laboratories in lieu of taking the dreaded course for the credit.

"In those days, it was very unusual for undergraduates to work in a research lab ... so I jumped on it like a dog on a bone ... [and] I got a publication out of it," Kinsey said. "Always after that, I relied on his advice. He was a very wise person ... who changed my life."

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