We have received a wonderful gift from the family of Herb Lewis of close to 2,300 classical music CDs. We will process this collection for public use over the next twelve to eighteen months. Keep looking for it in our catalogue.
Systems and Collections Access Coordinator
Systems and Collections Access Coordinator
Holly Carr's wonderful tribute to Herb Lewis.
Painting on silk - 2001.
Herb was born in Montreal in 1929, and was the grandson of immigrants who had arrived from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s. His father, whose education was curtailed due to the Depression, was an insurance salesman, his mother a bookkeeper. Despite their modest circumstances, both parents were ardent collectors, and Herb grew up amid objets d’art, paintings, fine china and antique furniture that often appeared one week and disappeared the next. Their surroundings had a profound effect on all the Lewis children – Herb’s younger brother Stanley (a sculptor of note) and his sister Sheila shared his life-long interest in the art world.
Herb called himself a child of the ghetto, and lived in Montreal’s Plateau area as well as in Outremont once the family’s economic situation had improved. He quickly demonstrated his intellectual gifts, speaking early, and at the age of two, simultaneously making 400-piece jigsaw puzzles, often upside down. Herb was fascinated by the sciences while still a preschooler, and spoke of his father’s calm understanding when an explosion caused by an experiment gone wrong resulted in a minor fire. He was sent to elementary school a year early despite his dyslexia and timidity, but had slightly more academic and social success at Montreal’s famed Baron Byng High School. His classmates included future writers, artists, politicians and scholars, among them Mordecai Richler.
Herb was keenly interested in world history, and to his parents’ dismay, was intrigued by a number of radical campus political organizations. He read voraciously, and remembered everything. He began to buy books, ultimately acquiring 8,000 volumes. He entered McGill University at fifteen, but found little interest in his prescribed studies. He dropped out for almost two years, and thanks to two uncles who were musicians with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, was given license to attend rehearsals at will. His passion for music grew by leaps and bounds as he had the opportunity to familiarize himself with repertory, guest soloists’ and acclaimed conductors. He returned to McGill with heighted maturity, ostensibly pursuing a path in comparative literature but spending much of his time auditing classes in architecture and medicine. The sudden death of his supervising professor led him to philosophy and classical languages, of which he became a serious scholar. His master’s thesis on Ortega y Gasset earned him a cum laude degree in 1954.
Herb married Ingrid Weissler when he was twenty-one, and delighted in the arrival of his children Monika and Adrian. He undertook further graduate work in philosophy at John Hopkins University but came home to explore a career in social work which he felt offered a more appropriate route to support his family. It was an unhappy decision that he reversed promptly with a return to academia. In a characteristic burst of energy and enthusiasm, he completed course work along with a massive thesis on Aristotle within a nine-month period, attaining a Ph.D. from Université de Montréal with magna cum laude honours.
Herb and his family moved to Acadia University in Wolfville in 1959, where he headed the Philosophy Department for twenty-nine years. He held the W.G. Clark chair until his retirement for medical reasons in 1994. In 1972, he married Sara Lee Levitan and became the loving stepfather of Ira, Margo and the late Gina.
Herb’s years at Acadia were marked by his innovative approach to teaching, his rapport with students both in and outside the classroom, and his willingness to share his extraordinary knowledge of music, art, literature, science, philosophy, history, anthropology – and Asian cuisine - with friends, family and colleagues. His wisdom, a legacy for all who knew him and studied with him, will continue to resonate on several contents, and the recordings and books he lovingly amassed are bringing pleasure to new devotees of all ages. Herb’s extensive collection of music notes and journals is now housed in the Special Collections library of Dalhousie University, and this past summer his diverse library of 700 art books found a new home at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in Canning, NS. The Lewis family is particularly rewarded that the Annapolis Valley Regional Library has accepted their gift of Herb’s extensive library of CDs, and warmly thank the Library staff for their collaboration and efforts.
Sara Lee Lewis, C.M.
Wolfville, N. S.