New name recognizes innovation, entrepreneurship
Claremont McKenna College’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship now bears Randall Lewis’s name in honor and recognition of the real estate industry leader. Lewis '73 P'10 P'11 P'13 was celebrated recently for his loyal commitment to the College.
“The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is the perfect home for Randall’s name,” said CMC trustee Jim McElwee ’74 P’12, Lewis’ classmate and longtime friend.
To unveil and celebrate the renaming of the Center, CMC luminaries gathered virtually on Oct. 20 to pay tribute to Lewis, his loyal commitment to the College, his generous contributions to the community, and his visionary leadership in the Southern California region.
“The CIE started as a scrappy startup, founded by a group of entrepreneurial students in 2012,” said CIE Advisory Board Chair Kip Hallman ’81 P’14. Eight years later, the Center is a CMC fixture, providing students the skills they need to innovate and thrive through hands-on learning and collaboration with local, national, and global partners.”
According to Hallman, the $3.75 million gift from Lewis and his family–matched with a gift from George Roberts ’66 P’93 to total $5 million—will “boost our ability to help prepare students to be thoughtful, productive, and responsible leaders and innovators.”
McElwee ’74 P’12 spoke on behalf of the Board of Trustees. “I first met Randall more than 50 years ago,” he said, fondly recalling their days together as economics majors at CMC.
McElwee noted that Lewis is a 47-year veteran of the real estate business, who in his role as executive vice president, marketing at The Lewis Group, has implemented innovative thinking to adapt to his industry’s upswings and downturns. Lewis’ parents founded the company in 1955 and it continues today with Randall, and brothers Richard ’65, Robert ’67, and Roger.
The overall impact of the gift from Lewis to CIE, McElwee said, “will be felt across campus, as part of a dynamic cohort of research institutes and centers intended to enrich the student experience.”
Randall also spoke, sharing that, “CMC has been really important to our family and our business.” Two of his brothers, Richard and Robert, as well as all three of his children—Sarah ’10, Riley ’11, and Rosie ’13—are also graduates of CMC. In addition, Sarah recently joined the CIE advisory board.
“I had a fantastic experience at Claremont,” he continued. “I saw the value of a liberal arts education, and I got to experience all of the Claremont Colleges. I took a course from Peter Drucker at the graduate school on innovation and entrepreneurship that truly was life-changing. Every week I think of ideas that I learned from him. He created a passion in me to study innovation.”
Lewis emphasized that while having the CIE take his name, “is a dream come true for me…this is not my Center. I know that it belongs to the school, the students, faculty, alumni, and so many others. My hope is to be a supporter, to build on the great work already being done.”
With his commitment to the CIE, Lewis intends to expand its activities further into the Inland Empire region, which he said “fits very well with (CMC) President Hiram Chodosh’s initiative to help deal with some of society’s larger challenges.”
Lewis added, “We have an opportunity through the CIE to help our campus, our local community, the region, the state, and even further than that, the world,” he said.
Chodosh concluded the celebration, and extended his gratitude to Lewis for his commitments “to educate this next best generation of responsible leaders to innovate solutions to the problems we face in all sectors; to improve the human condition through an entrepreneurial and growth mindset, and provide the skills to do so; to focus not only globally, but also locally, in our own backyard here in Claremont and the Inland Empire region, and in sum, to build the premier liberal arts center on innovation and entrepreneurship.”
After the celebration, Lewis remained for an interview with two CIE fellows, Curtis Salinger ’22, (applied mathematics), and Elizabeth Song ’22 (economics and computer science).
Prof. Darren Filson, the director of the Randall Lewis Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, introduced the Zoom-based program, with more than 100 CMC alumni and friends joining the conversation.
Lewis thoughtfully fielded questions ranging from the role innovation plays in his success to how CMC prepared him for his career.
“Innovation exists everywhere,” he said. “It’s not necessarily charismatic leaders who drive innovation, but the companies and organizations who have systems for innovation, who are thinking, ‘How can we be better? How can we use existing resources differently?’”
Throughout the interview, he highlighted the value of a liberal arts education, which he sees as “a strength of CMC because you get a breadth of experiences and an emphasis on writing and research.”
Lewis was asked to share his fondest CMC memory. “I had a great time at CMC, with really smart classmates and challenging professors. That combination created a fantastic opportunity for me,” he said. “My wife, Janell, and I were so happy and proud that our children went to and graduated from CMC.”