Attorney Browne C. Lewis, dean of the North Carolina Central University (NCCU) School of Law, was discovered dead in her hotel room Thursday.
Lewis, who was named dean in 2020, was attending a conference in Colorado with colleagues, WTVD reported. Her death comes less than a month shy of her 2-year anniversary with the Durham-based HBCU.
The university did not share further details about the cause of death.
In a university message, NCCU Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye celebrated the accomplishments and contributions of the beloved attorney, legal scholar, author, and mentor.
“Her vision was clear from Day One in leading the school as one that provides unique opportunities for diverse, talented future attorneys to be practice-ready practitioners in their chosen legal careers. She accumulated numerous accomplishments for the university and School of Law in her short, nearly two years at its helm,” Akinleye wrote.
Dean Malik Edwards said, “I think there’s definitely a hole. But the good thing is, she had a vision, and she put that vision into place. And, luckily, we have structures that allow those pieces to move forward,” WTVD reported.
From enrollment increase to championing for minorities in the law field, Lewis’ leadership greatly impacted the present and future NCCU students and lawyers.
“She wanted to be a dean here because she wanted to be at an HBCU. Unfortunately, there are (few) opportunities for first-generation students and for minority students to become lawyers…African Americans represent less than 5% of the bar and that’s something she wanted to change,” Edwards continued.
The university emphasized Lewis’ passion for social justice and law, as well has her pride for working at one of only six HBCU law schools in the country.
“The key value I want to imprint on the law school is overcoming the impossible through hard work, perseverance, and tenacity. It is important to overcome adversity and realize that you can accomplish any goal even if you do it in bite-sized pieces,” Lewis said in an excerpt of an interview published by Attorney at Law Magazine in March 2022.
Funeral and memorial service details have not yet been released.