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
Holly Carr's wonderful tribute to Herb Lewis.
Painting on silk - 2001.
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.
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
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.