Simon Lewis, professor of English and speaker of the Faculty Senate at the College of Charleston, has been honored with the 2021 Governor’s Award in the Humanities.
Conferred by the South Carolina Humanities, a 501(c) 3 organization governed by volunteer community leaders, the Governor’s Award in the Humanities recognizes outstanding achievement in humanities research, teaching and scholarship in the Palmetto State.
Lewis, a former associate dean of the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs and director of African Studies, is one of fewer than 100 individuals and organizations to receive the award.
“This means a huge amount to me and I’m just tremendously grateful to all the people who have enabled my work over the years,” Lewis says. “I’m tempted to put ‘work’ in quotation marks, because it’s not much like work at all when you have the support of colleagues, at all levels, as cool as we’re blessed with at CofC.”
Established in 1991, the Governor’s Awards in the Humanities spotlights institutional and individual participation in helping South Carolina communities better understand cultural heritage issues related to the humanities, as well as recognizing excellence defining the state’s cultural life to the nation or world and support for public humanities programs.
“Simon’s had a huge impact on the intellectual life of our campus,” says Gibbs Knotts, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. “He’s a world-class teacher-scholar and a staunch advocate for the humanities. He also has a knack for bringing people together from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, and we are so lucky to have him on our faculty.”
Thoroughly southern, Lewis was raised in the South of England and near Cape Town, South Africa. He returned to England to complete high school and an undergraduate degree at Worcester College in Oxford. A year as a graduate student at the University of South Carolina in Columbia revealed a passion for teaching and for the next nine years he taught high school English in England and Tanzania. Returning to graduate school in the United States, Lewis completed his doctorate at the University of Florida. Since 1996 he has taught in the Department of English at CofC, specializing in African and postcolonial literature.
Fascinated by Charleston’s African heritage, Lewis became enthusiastically involved with the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) program, which was established in 1994 to promote scholarship and public engagement with the history and culture of the Lowcountry, the Atlantic World and the connections between the two. For the last two decades he has been associated with CLAW as either associate director or director, overseeing numerous public lectures, symposia and conferences on topics as diverse as foodways, material culture, public history and Jewish intellectual migration.
“As far as CLAW is concerned, I admit to a lot of pride in that program,” Lewis says. “I think we’ve punched way above our weight over the last 25 years or so and have had a significant impact on the way people think about Lowcountry and Atlantic World history. On the campus, I’m especially pleased that we’ve been able to be so effectively interdisciplinary, connecting with folks from African studies, African American studies, etc. through to zoology.”
President Andrew T. Hsu, in a recent email to CofC faculty and staff, praised Lewis’ contributions to his department and the College: “Simon has been and is a stalwart champion for the campus community, while also continuing to be a distinguished scholar and advocate for the humanities. Well done, Simon, on receiving this much-deserved honor. You bring great acclaim to the College of Charleston.”