SOJC says goodbye to beloved instructor

"I will always be your angel in the room. I love you all." Mark Lewis.

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of our friend and instructor Mark W. Lewis, an award-winning storyteller who taught in the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). Lewis died on Dec. 7 from a pulmonary embolism. He was 60.

Lewis joined the SOJC in 2012 and taught the Presentation Skills class, changing the way students in the SOJC think about storytelling and life.

“Mark Lewis was an inspiration, a pure heart, our secret weapon, a good fellow, a true pirate, that joy in the hallway, a rapscallion, beloved by students and colleagues, a dear friend, courage ruled by love,” Carolyn Chambers Distinguished Professor of Advertising Deb Morrison said. “He will be missed by so many.”

Lewis believed in the inherent power of the imagination. His 40 years of professional experience won him two Emmy awards for his show "Word Pictures" for WTTW in Chicago and a performance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." He did voiceover work for ABC-TV, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Disney Imagineering, where his voice can be heard in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. He also was a published author with three books to his credit.

“There is no one like Mark. I will remember him keeping a roomful of 50-year-olds spellbound with his stories, emceeing a chicken beauty contest, roasting marshmallows in my backyard, singing Christmas carols, and making way too much noise in the Winter Room,” said Lauren Kessler, SOJC Writing Initiative coordinator and long-time friend of Lewis. “I've known him for more than a decade, and there was never a moment when I was in his presence that I didn't smile.”

One of his best gifts was the way he inspired the students he taught at the SOJC. The outpouring on Twitter using the #LifeAsAJStudent hashtag is a testament to students’ admiration for him. SOJC student Chloe Stoller wrote, “Thank you for teaching me to present with pride, dignity, and grace. Mark Lewis, you will forever be the ‪@UOsojc Angel in the room.

Tommy Woods, SOJC student, wrote, “In a school where we value great storytellers, Mark Lewis was one of the best, but most importantly, he inspired us to make our own.”

“Mark was a dear, kind and hope-inspiring colleague who blessed the lives of all who knew and worked with him,” said Julianne H. Newton, interim Edwin L. Artzt dean of the SOJC. “Students adored him for his compassionate energy and mentorship. We will miss him deeply.”

Margaret Parker, public relations instructor, said, “This man, among my guest lecturers, was the hands-down favorite for my students. He made them laugh and learn and extend themselves into the non-comfort zone – all at the same time. I've watched those same students put his wonderful guidance into practice and impress their audiences.”

For those who are on campus, the SOJC established a memorial in the Allen Hall hearth. Please feel free to stop by and share your stories.

Although family members have requested privacy during this time, they have set up options for those wishing to share their memories of Lewis. If you have a story, blessing, or photograph about Lewis to share, you’re invited you to do so at A Mark W Lewis Memorial Fund also has been set up for anyone wishing to make a donation.

By Amy Pinkston, UO School of Journalism and Communication