Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Lewis, Leo Rich, 1865-1945
|Leo Rich Lewis (1865-1945), A1887, H1922, was professor of music and head of the Department of Music for fifty years. One of the "Grand Old Men" of the college, he composed the music for Tufts' "Alma Mater" in 1898, and was responsible for making Tufts known as "the Singing College." Tufts poet John Holmes, in his work "Leo Rich Lewis, 1865-1945" stated,"We heard his music rise, his morning shout. We heard his heart in light."|
Lewis was born in South Woodstock, Vermont, on February 11, 1865 to Universalist minister and Tufts alumnus John Jay Lewis, A1863, M1866.In 1867, the Lewis family moved to South Boston, Massachusetts, where Lewis attended the Lincoln Grammar School and then went on to Boston English and Boston Latin High Schools, graduating in 1879 and 1883, respectively. While still in high school he became a printer with his own press. He taught the subject at the Farm and TradeSchool on Thompson's Island, Boston Harbor. Entering Tufts in 1883, Lewis continued to be quite active in extracurricular activities, which included being a member of Zeta Psi fraternity, the Tufts baseball team, an editor of the Tuftonian, and the college organist from 1886-1887.He received several academic prizes and delivered the Class Day Oration during Commencement Week his senior year. His love of music was reflected in his efforts to found a glee club almost immediately after enrolling at Tufts. The organization gave its first concert in the chapel in Ballou Hall in the spring of 1886, accompanied by the Mandolin Club, which Lewis also organized. While a student at Tufts, Lewis composed several cantatas and operettas for children, along with Tufts songs "Love It for Aye" and the "Barnum Song," which was presented by the Glee Club at commencement in 1886 (the only time that Barnum visited the campus).After graduating form Tufts in 1887, Lewis earned a second Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Music, from Harvard University in 1888, and then a Masters degree with highest honors from the same institution in 1889.He then studied at the Munich Conservatory until July 1892.While in Germany, Lewis met and spoke with composer Johnanes Brahms. Returning to the United States in 1892, Lewis assumed a position of instructor in French at Tufts. Lewis was named professor of the History and Theory of Music in 1895, following Albert Metcalf's proposal and funding of a Music department at Tufts. In 1920, he was made professor of Music and associate professor of Modern Languages and in 1924, he was selected to become the Fletcher Professor of Music, the first of five endowed professorships awarded at the bequest of Austin B. Fletcher. He continued to split his time between the French and Music departments until 1926, when he relinquished his other appointment in order to devote himself fully to the Music Department as its head. He continued to chair the department for nineteen years, until his death on September 8, 1945.
Known as Tufts' "Dean of Music," Lewis was connected to all things musical at Tufts. His association with Tufts, aside from "Dear Alma Mater," include the publication of four editions of the Tufts College Song Book (1895, 1906,1915, 1922) and The Evolution of Tufts Music (1922). He was instrumental in establishing dramatics at Tufts and served as an early advisor and support of Pen, Paint and Pretzels (3Ps), a student theatrical troupe. He chaired several faculty committees and continued to organize and oversee men's and women's glee clubs, college bands, orchestras, and other musically oriented organizations during his time at Tufts. A staple at Tufts Night at the Pops, Lewis received the baton from conductor and long-time friend, Arthur Fieldler, to lead the group in the playing and singing of the alma mater. In 1922, Tufts conferred on Lewis the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in recognition of his many contributions to the college in a wide range of fields, but especially music. Outside of Tufts, Lewis held many positions within local and national musical and educational organizations.
Lewis married Carrie Nichols Bullard, a fellow composer and accompanianist in December of 1892. They resided at 20 Professors Row, the oldest home on campus, originally built in 1855 for Hosea Ballou 2d, and, since the summer of 1989, the house has appropriately been home to the Department of Music. The Lewis' had one son, Philip Bullard Lewis, A1918.Upon the graduation of their granddaughter, Barbara, from the college in 1942, the Lewis family became the first in Tufts history to have produced four generations of alumni.
Lewis Hall, the first co-educational undergraduate dormitory was named in Lewis' honor.