Distinguished Alumni Awards

Kenneth D. Lewis

Kenneth D. Lewis
To Kenneth D. Lewis, for inspiring the educational pursuits of many, particularly minority, students, and, despite personal risks, for protecting public health by overseeing safe containment, handling, and transport of nuclear materials.

Dean, College of Science,Mathematics, Technology and Engineering, South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, S.C.

  • AB, 1971, Physics, Rutgers University
  • MS, 1972, Physics, Lehigh University
  • MS, 1974, Nuclear Engineering, Stanford University
  • MA, 1979, Applied Mathematics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • PhD, 1982,Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 Kenneth D. Lewis has made a career of serving and safeguarding the public through his work as an educator and nuclear engineer. He currently is dean of the College of Science,Mathematics, and Engineering Technology and B&W Y-12 Professor of Nuclear Engineering at South Carolina State University, one of the country’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. As dean, he has had an opportunity to combine his experience as a nuclear engineer with his lifelong commitment to promote higher education among African Americans.

Prior to this position, Lewis was Senior Staff Engineer II with BWXT at the Oak Ridge Y-12 National Security Complex (formerly operated by Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc.) in Oak Ridge,Tennessee. There, his major responsibility was ensuring the safe operation of Department of Energy (DOE)-owned nuclear materials processing facilities, including the Atomic Vapor Laser Isotope Separation prototype at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he was assigned for five years. He also served as manager of the nuclear calculations and packaging group within the Nuclear Criticality Safety Division and as deputy manager of the Facility Safety Division.

As a nuclear engineering expert, Lewis’ support to the DOE projects has directly impacted national and world security and public health. This ability was perhaps most clearly demonstrated during the “Sapphire” project, a secret U.S. mission in 1994 to retrieve approximately 600 kilograms of very highly enriched weapons-grade uranium (sufficient to construct several Hiroshima-size atomic bombs) from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan before it could fall into terrorists’ hands. The work he performed earned him a letter of personal appreciation from then-President Bill Clinton, as well as the thanks of U.S. ambassadors, and the secretaries of Energy,Defense, and State.

In addition to being named Lockheed Martin Energy Systems “Engineer of the Year for 1998,” Lewis also received the Nova Award for Technical Excellence—the 161,000-employee corporation’s highest honor. Also that year, the 1998 Black Engineer of the Year Awards Selection Committee chose Lewis from among several hundred nominees for the President’s Award.

In 1999, Lewis was named Fellow of the American Nuclear Society, a distinction held by fewer than five percent of that society’s 11,000 members. In 2000, he was among 20 people from the nation’s four DOE national security technology centers and Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories to be appointed a member of the Network of Senior Scientists and Engineers inaugural class. He was re-appointed to that group in 2003. The Department of Energy presented him with an Award of Excellence in 2001 for heading a team that developed a new class of borated materials used to safely store uranium materials. Lewis has written over two dozen journal articles and technical reports, including works presented in Germany and Shanghai, China, before China’s largest nuclear science association.

For many years, Lewis has been an active supporter and alumni volunteer for the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, on its alumni board since 2000 and as keynote speaker for the 2007 NPRE Honors Banquet. He is also an ordained minister and has served as associate pastor, Bible teacher, and youth director at churches in Ohio, California, and Tennessee. In working with church youth, he has encouraged and inspired many to go on to college, two of whom earned PhDs—one in computer science and the other in nuclear engineering.

Current as of 2008.