Longtime SNRAS dean Carol Lewis retiring

Carol Lewis
Carol Lewis
Nancy Tarnai

After 39 years with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, including more than a decade in her current position, School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences dean Carol Lewis is retiring.

Lewis, who also serves as director of the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, joined UAF in 1973.

“I thought it would be an interesting challenge,” she said. “Agriculture in the U.S. was changing and developing agriculture in the state of Alaska is a challenge. The experiment station had been stagnant for five years and wasn’t matching the research needs of the state and I wanted to change that.”

The SNRAS curriculum also needed to be revitalized and recruiting re-emphasized, she said. “We needed to pull ourselves out of a downward sloping enrollment curve and I knew we couldn’t do that quickly. It would take some effort and it has. Now we are headed in the right direction.”

Lewis came to Alaska with no real job objective in mind. She and John Lewis came to hunt, fish and enjoy the state. They decided to stay and she accepted a research position at UAF. Lewis soon became a member of the faculty and also taught at Kenai Peninsula Community College. As a professor of resources management at UAF, she focused on conservation tillage, product marketing and on economic development in the natural resource arena, including applications and systems for conventional and alternative energy in remote areas.

Lewis received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from the University of Florida, and her doctorate in theoretical physics from Georgetown University.

During her watch, the school and station established a reindeer herd as a part of the Reindeer Research Program; began work in biomass and bioproducts; developed new research, educational and outreach programs at the Palmer Center for Sustainable Living in the Matanuska Valley, including turf research and second and third generation biofuel research; led research on the Endangered Species Act for the state of Alaska; and led research on controlled-environment agriculture for northern latitudes.

Lewis plans to spend more time with her husband John and their dachshund, Hammer, play more tennis and write a book on agricultural research in Alaska.

“That story has never been told in its entirety,” she said.

Lewis’ last day is Oct. 26. Stephen Sparrow will serve as interim dean and director. He has been associate dean for eight years.

“I have a lot of experience here in the school and experiment station and at UAF,” Sparrow said. “Over the past 30 years I’ve gained a lot of institutional memory that will come in handy.”

Sparrow is a professor of agronomy who researches bio-energy crops and soil management. He has a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University, a master’s degree from Colorado State University and a doctorate from the University of Minnesota.

“My charge is to move the school ahead,” he said. “We’ll be revising the curriculum and planning a long-term sustainable financial plan.”

NOTE TO EDITORS: A photo of Lewis is available online at www.uafnews.com.