Edna Lewis personifies greatness in a teacher. Having started her teaching career at the age of 18 in a two-room school within sight of Mount Mitchell, N.C., Mrs. Lewis has done it all. She carried in the spring water and built the fire to warm the room for the children on cold winter mornings and then went about teaching those very important lessons. After her marriage to Ralph Lewis, the couple moved to Erwin, Tennessee, where the Lewises ran their farm while struggling to complete their degrees from East Tennessee State University. Between classes, they would open a sack lunch of biscuit and tomato and sip from a pint jar of milk from their farm. Mrs. Lewis earned her bachelor's degree in English in 1951 from ETSU. The two Lewis children added to the ETSU tradition by earning four degrees between them.
Such sacrifices and hard work carried Mrs. Lewis through 44 years of teaching, as she influenced and personally cared for all 1,500 of the individual elementary students she taught. As a teacher, Mrs. Lewis has been described as "magical." She instilled in her students a desire to learn and to become the best they could be, never settling for second best. She directed and worked on endless projects for her students. From bulletin boards, parades, pageants, and plays to displays and special performances, she coaxed the best efforts from her children. This work carried over into the community through similar functions for her church.
Mrs. Lewis lovingly nursed her husband through the final years of his life. Since her retirement, her zest for life and her enthusiasm have never waned, despite her personal fight against cancer. She remains an avid Buccaneer sports fan and loves just to be close to students and the learning environment on campus at East Tennessee State University. She is a member of the ETSU "Committee of 1000" and "Challenge 2000."