Ph.D., University of Kentucky;
Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, University of Vermont.
Gordon passed into the hands of our Father on March 18 and found the peace that belongs to those who have touched the lives of their family with a legacy of love. His was a life centered on people: serving the community, teaching our youth, advocating for the disadvantaged, lobbying for important causes, and striving to create a lasting sense of family within his home.
Born in Waldwick, N.J., on Feb 25, 1924, to Emma Peckart Lewis and Winfield S. Lewis, he was of the age to see his first service to society in the U.S. Army during WW2 as a 1st Sergeant in the Pacific theatre. His principle posting was Okinawa. He returned to Rutgers University in N.J. upon discharge from the Army where he continued his lifelong study of human interaction by majoring in Sociology. He went on to receive his Master of Arts and Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky. March Madness was never a dull time in our house!
His teaching posts began at the U. of Kentucky in Lexington and continued at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.; Elmira College in Elmira, N.Y.; and the University of Vermont. He retired in 1988. Summer teaching positions included the University of Alberta, Canada; University of New Brunswick in Fredericton; and Long Beach State University, Calif. He also was fortunate to take several sabbaticals to England: one to Reading University and two to the University of Sheffield. These experiences reconnected him to his maternal grandmother's English heritage and established him as a card-carrying Anglophile.
Gordon's influence and service was far reaching. His academic service included: Chair of the UVM Sociology Department, Chair of the Faculty Senate, Chair of the Senate Financial Policy Committee, and a plethora of lesser college and university committees. Beyond the academic world he served on the Burlington Board of School Commissioners, was twice president of Howard Mental Health Services and served as trustee at Unitarian Universalist churches here and in Florida. He was on the Shelburne board of Civil Authority and Democratic committees at local and regional levels; State President of Florida Council on Human Relations; on the Board of Directors of the Florida Citizenship Clearing House; and District Governor of Pi Gamma, a social science honorary society.
His connectedness to people included a heavy involvement in the civil rights movement. He was particularly proud of a study he organized and executed in 1957, while teaching in Florida, that disproved the often presented justification by the Orlando Sentinel that Southern blacks were happy with the way things were. This willingness to speak out to make society better was further demonstrated in his many contributions and letters to Op-Ed pages both locally and abroad. He ran for state office on the belief that society functions best when we focus our greatest energies on taking care of each other.
These professional achievements reflect only a small part of Gordon's success. At the heart of his interest in people was his love of spending time with them. He maintained many lifelong friendships, many of which were not limited by geography. He treasured his coterie of English friends and was eager to visit whenever possible. Deeper than these connections, however, was his love of all things family. He felt blessed to have had five children of his own and then blessed again when the grandchildren and great grandchildren arrived. He was quick to take an interest in anything they were involved in and looked forward to getting updates on their progress with whatever endeavor they had chosen.
Such devotion led him to one of the great joys of his life: soccer. Two of his sons played and he joined in enthusiastically by learning all he could about its intricacies, serving as a team manager and as co-commissioner of the Champlain Summer Soccer League, and, of course, watching every game his sons were playing in. He went on to become a booster of the UVM men's soccer team and would follow the progress of players upon graduation. He continued to attend games even when we worried about his subjecting himself to Vermont's late fall weather. He carried his interest in the game with him on his sabbaticals and, with his affinity for connecting with others, had the opportunity to become acquainted with some professional football people. He was delighted when he was able to bring some of these talented coaches stateside to help grow the game here. One of those coaches, John Warnock in particular, became a dear friend.
Those left to continue his best ways include his devoted wife of 63 years, Elizabeth Hurley Lewis of S. Burlington; daughter Melissa M. and Mark Heim of Boston and their children, Sarah and partner Rachel Wener, and Jacob; Ronald W. and his wife, Ann, of Colchester; G. Jason and his wife, Sally A., Colchester, and their children, Brenden and Quinten; Nicholas H. and Linda, Ridgewood, N.J., and their children, Ryan and Eric. Gordon’s son Jeffery J. Lewis predeceased him. Jeff's wife, Patty L. Rollins, of Marietta, Ga., continues to be a special part of the family. Their children include Dan and his wife, Susan, and Kimberly. Gordon’s great grandchildren include Elizabeth Lewis and Kylee Lewis. He was predeceased by his brothers Burton, Ronald and Robert.
Papa, you touched our lives with the enduring presence of love. We are comforted by it and thank you for our ability to share it. God bless.
A memorial service to celebrate Gordon's life will be held at 3 p.m. April 5, at Stephen C. Gregory and Son, 427 Meadowland Dive, Suite 7, in S. Burlington. Condolences may be made online at http://www.gregorycremation.com