Urban Studies and Earl Lewis
Trinity’s first tenured black professor built intricate and passionate ties between Trinity and the community
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Earl Lewis and fellow Trinity professors in a Trinity classroom

The Urban Studies graduate program, directed by Earl Lewis (right), played a vital role in university and community life. With Lewis are faculty members (left to right) Catherine Powell, Henry Cisneros, and Heywood Sanders.

Earl Lewis, Trinity's first tenured African American professor, joined the University in 1968.

His impact was nothing short of transformative. Over the course of his 22-year tenure, Lewis and his colleagues trained and mentored more than 250 men and women to work in the public and private sectors, opening the way for them to contribute to the governance of this region, and far beyond.

Lewis was called upon to direct a two-year graduate program in Urban Studies, partially endowed by the George W. Brackenridge Foundation. Highly regarded as an educator and participant in public service, Lewis initiated a program in the fall of 1969 with a diverse student population that included significant numbers of Black and Hispanic students. In addition to specific urban studies courses, students took courses taught by instructors in the Departments of Sociology, Economics, Psychology, Political Science, Health Care Administration, and Journalism. Students were also required to serve a nine-to-twelve-month apprenticeship in a private or public community agency.

Graduates of the program routinely became city planners and city managers in major metropolitan areas across the country or attained other professional positions in state and federal government agencies and private economic development corporations. Among his many students who have significantly impacted their communities are Trinity Trustee Walter Huntley Jr. ’71, ’73, who has and continues to play an influential role in Atlanta's urban development, and former San Antonio City Manager Alex Briseño 71 ’73.

The legacy of Trinity’s Urban Studies department continues to resonate to this day, as graduates such as new San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh ’91, ’94 continue to reach positions of great impact, and professors such as Christine Drennon contribute invaluable research that has introduced powerful calls for equity and fairness into the city’s budgeting process.

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