We are sad to report the passing Al Lewis.
Al was an emeritus professor in Earth and Ocean Sciences and Zoology. Al was a keen member of our department and the Biodiversity Research Centre where he taught Zoogeography (usually sporting a bow tie) and was a leading researcher in copepod functional ecology and morphology. His enthusiasm for copepods was apparent to anyone who spotted Al tirelessly examining them under his favourite microscope in his BRC office! Al also was a keen supporter of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and participated in a "Researchers Revealed" video describing the power of combining new and old approaches to understanding marine biodiversity, "Old Ways New Waves" (link below).
His Beaty Museum "Way Cool" lecture can be watched here: "Copepods are way cool because..."
There is also a lovely memorial to Al on the EOAS web site at https://www.eoas.ubc.ca/news-events/news/1667808000
Our thoughts and condolences go out to Al’s family and friends and colleagues.
Remembrances of Dr. A.G. Lewis
by the staff of the Copper Research Information Flow Project
In 1974, Dr. A.G. Lewis began a grant project, the Biological Importance of Copper, to review the the science on copper in marine and estuarine environments. Over the following decades, supported by Grants-in-Aid from the International Copper Association, the project built an important reference collection on copper in the environment and health.
Sharon DeWreede, who worked closely on the library with him through the 1990s, remembers him with affection as a “really big person” who could appear to be gruff, even intimidating, but was really very fair and kind. Over the years they were joined by other library assistants and a host of summer student helpers. Sharon counted 42 students over that time period, some of them refugees from Kenya. Al was a supportive mentor to these students and valued their work tremendously — he saw it as a key contribution to the project. In recognition of that, he and his wife Carolyn hosted amazing potluck dinners to celebrate completion of the project’s massive annual report. A consummate host, he welcomed everyone warmly, and shared around his homemade wine and Carolyn’s delicious baked beans, among other culinary delights.
Dr. Brenda Harrison joined the project in 1991, to relieve Al of some of the report writing. Eventually, Al left the project to devote his time to his copepod research, supervising graduate students, and teaching. Brenda was grateful for the creative opportunity Al provided for her to combine a demanding career with family life — Al fully appreciated work/life balance before it became fashionable. Always leading by example, he was a tireless worker and expected much of others. We were aware of Al’s Type I diabetes, and he readily shared details of his self-care. He was always considerate of others and made sure that his disease did not impact their own work in any way. Brenda was inspired by his tenacity in doing everything possible to manage his condition, including swimming, cycling, and staying physically fit. He was a competitive athlete in his early years, and the tenacity that fostered served him well even late in life. Brenda’s husband Paul, as a UBC undergraduate in the 1960s, found Al a formidable presence in the classroom filled with a group of graduate students. Long after Al’s retirement, Paul would encounter him on the #25 Bus to UBC and watch as Al would step off at Wesbrook and stride off across campus wielding his Nordic Poles.
Linda Greenway, who will now head up the project, recalls Al calling her years ago when she was almost finished her maternity leave, to offer her a job with “The Copper Library”. She will be forever grateful for that phone call, and for Al’s understanding of what flexible hours and schedule could mean to a new mother. Linda remembers what one of his doctoral students said at Al’s retirement party – that he made genuine personal connections with everyone he interacted with at UBC, from administrators, to faculty, to students, to support staff. She also remembers the delicious staff lunch he hosted at Sage. Linda recounts that Al, always ready with a quick smile and encouraging word, had a keen sense of humour, bringing a length of rope to thesis defences and saying, perhaps only half in jest, that any oceanographer should know how to tie knots!
For all of us on the project, we mostly remember Al looking a typical west coaster, at his desk or over his microscope, usually wearing his polar fleece vest. For more formal occasions, Al favoured a bow tie and proudly wore his colourful academic regalia from University of Hawaii to UBC Congregation. Al was absolutely dedicated to the academic life and at his desk early every morning, continuing this regimen well past his retirement. This ethic and his always-trim haircut gave him an almost military air.
Al will be greatly missed. We mourn his passing and extend our warmest condolences to Carolyn and Al’s two children and grandchildren.