HLS Donor Lewis, 50, Dies

Beatrice CEO Gave $3 Million to Law School Last Year

Reginald F. Lewis, the chair of TLC Beatrice International Holdings whose $3 million donation to the Harvard Law School was the school's largest individual gift ever, died yesterday of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 50.

Lewis, a 1968 graduate of the Law School, had been hospitalized since Monday with brain cancer and was in a coma. Further details about Lewis' hospitalization were not released.

"I'm totally shocked and dismayed and upset," Law School Dean Robert C. Clark said in a telephone interview from New York City last night. "He was a tremendous friend of the Law School and of me, too."

Clark said Lewis was "upbeat and healthy" when the two met in New York in November. He added that Lewis expressed interest in visiting the campus only two weeks ago.

"This was a complete surprise to us," Clark said. "We would never have guessed it."


A statement from the school yesterday, issued before Lewis' death, called him "an accomplished graduate, a loyal friend and a trusted counselor."

Last year Lewis designated a $3 million grant to the Law School from the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation.

The grant established the Reginald F. Lewis International Law Center, the first Harvard building to be named after a Black person.

The money was also used to found the Reginald F. Lewis Fund for International Study and Research to promote faculty research and student involvement with organizations of developing countries.

The Reginald F. Lewis Foundation has given at least $4 million to charitable institutions over the last five years, including a $1 million grant to Howard University, according to the Law School's statement.

Lewis served on the Dean's Advisorv Council, the Visiting Committee and the Executive Committee of the $150 million Campaign for Harvard Law School, according to the statement.

"[Lewis was] among Dean Robert Clark's most valued advisors," yesterday's statement said.

Last year Forbes magazine placed Lewis, whose worth was estimated at approximately $400 million, among the 400 wealthiest Americans.

Lewis engineered the rise of TLC through two major buyouts. In 1983, he led a $22.5 million buyout of McCall PatternCo., a dress-pattern maker which he sold to aBritish business four years later for $63 million.

In 1987, Lewis collaborated with Drexel BurnhamLambert Inc.'s Michael R. Milken to engineer TLC's$1 billion buyout of Beatrice InternationalCompany, a food products corporation.

Last week, Jean S. Fugett, Lewis' brother,assumed control of the company, which is thelargest Blackowned business in America. Fugett hadbeen the vice chair of the company.

Lewis has avoided describing his prominence inthe business world as a Black success story.

"Unfortunately, when we label people it tendsto circumscribe and define them in ways that cutaway from their accomplishments," he said in aninterview with the New York Times last July, afterannouncing his gift to Harvard. "I decided thatparticularly in my business career, I would doeverything I could to avoid that happening."

Lewis is survived by his wife and twodaughters, one of whom, Leslie, is a sophomore atthe College.

This story was written with dispatches fromthe Associated Press.

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