“I’m approaching 40, but I’m not old. Even if I’m 50, I’m still not old. I’m not scared.”
On June 8, 1977, Shepard Lewis, Collegiate’s Associate Director of Development, was born in Richmond. He attended Collegiate through Middle School, transferred to Christchurch School, and then attended Sewanee: The University of the South, where he earned his BA and graduated in 2000. He went to graduate school and got a Masters in history at the University of Mississippi, and went on to be a seventh grade boys history teacher at Collegiate. From 2005-2013, he taught but also worked in the development office at Collegiate. After he was through with teaching, in 2013 he took a full time job in the Development Office and now is in charge of fundraising and the annual fund for Collegiate. The Development Office reaches out to different donors and organizes fundraising events each year.
Lewis did attend Collegiate in Middle School but did not graduate from here. His parents moved to Tappahannock, Virginia, but Lewis did not want to leave Richmond. Many families offered to let him stay with them to finish school, but Lewis’ family decided it would be better for him to move. He was offered schooling at Woodberry, but didn’t want to go because he didn’t like the idea of Saturday classes. So, Lewis finally transferred to Christchurch and graduated in 1996.
During his free time, Lewis has perfected the art of impersonation. He can take on a wide variety of personalities, ranging from department heads to English teachers to retired pro football players. Growing up with the exposure to such people, he understands the way they act and can shape his voice to sound almost identical. Personally, my favorite is his impersonation of professional football player Peyton Manning, where Lewis talks about Manning’s praise for his offensive line as well as his love for Papa John’s pizza. Lewis, however, thinks he does a killer impersonation of legendary Collegiate Upper School English teacher and football coach Lewis “Bubba” Lawson. “I started when I was younger,” said Lewis, “and for all these years I have been practicing my imitations of people.” Lewis wants people to know that he isn’t making fun of anyone; rather, he imitates out of respect. Anyone he impersonates is someone he has a great deal of respect for, and that is something important to Lewis.
“Well-known comedian and impressionist Frank Caliendo ain’t got nothin’ on me, and he better watch out,” says Lewis.
Lewis had memories to share of both Weldon Bradshaw’s and John Coates’ Middle School English classes. Lewis remembered many things about writing papers. “See me” written on any paper was usually a bad sign, and Lewis expected the worst. One day, Bradshaw invited him in and handed a paper to Lewis. Of course, Lewis’ reaction was the classic “Oh no, I did terrible,” but Bradshaw looked at him and gave him unexpected praise for the work he did. In contrast, Coates had a class one day where he displayed a student’s paper on the board and talked about it to the entire class. Lewis looked to his friends and said, “You see that guys? Yeah, that’s my paper,” thinking he did well. This was not the case; Coates criticized his work and roasted his writing style.
On a more positive note, Lewis can talk forever about his favorite food: French fries. “Not the sweet potato ones or the fake ones, but real French fries.” In particular, Lewis enjoys the Cajun Style Fries, like those available at Cookout and Five Guys. He praises the always-popular fries from McDonald’s and believes that Burger King lags behind. He recently has developed a bit of respect for the curly fry, even though he ridiculed them for some time. He claims he can give up any desert in the world, as long as he doesn’t have to go a long time without having some fries.
Lately, you also can find Lewis either on the soccer field in the fall, coaching varsity boys, or on the lacrosse field in the spring, coaching the JV boys team. He hopes to be working at Collegiate for a while and be there to watch his two kids pass through each grade, as his daughter is now a part of the class of 2029.
Featured image courtesy of Collegiate School.