Dr. Lyn Lewis, Detroit sociologist, 'specialized in people'

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
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Dr. Lyn Lewis filled many roles in her professional life: sociologist, therapist, researcher, consultant, relationship guru, motivational speaker, certified evangelist.

Throughout them all, “she was a very dynamic woman who specialized in people,” said Gerald W. Smith, a longtime associate and retired Wayne State University professor. “She had a wide net of expertise with respect to human relations and the human condition. It just made her very unique. She had a perspective on just about everything.”

Lewis, who earned her doctorate from Wayne State University, died Thursday, March 21, 2019, after health issues. She was 71. 

Dr. Lyn Lewis was a sought-after voice on modern social issues, family and colleagues said.

The Louisiana native spent much of her career at the University of Detroit Mercy, which she joined in 1973.

Within 14 years, she chaired the Sociology Department — the first African-American to do so, said Gary Lichtman, the school’s director of media relations, marketing and communications.

During her tenure, Lewis was “one of the most sought-after professors and an amazing friend to so many of us,” he said. “Lyn loved students and making a difference in their lives."

“When I taught my Media Ethics (class) at the university, I would have her join us for two visits each year and she was the very best guest speaker, questioning each and every student and how they should handle each situation in their lives,” Lichtman said.

The Detroiter also was president and CEO of Lyn Lewis & Associates Inc., a consulting services firm.  Over the years, Lewis consulted for companies such as Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Chrysler; and was contracted by the Detroit Public Library to conduct training on sexual harassment and discrimination. She also led classes, workshops and seminars locally and across the country, relatives said.

“She weighed in because she was the go-to person on a variety of issues as it relates to the social condition, whether it was unemployment or crime or education,” Smith said.

Additionally, Lewis treated ex-offenders with social and developmental disabilities, spent years as a licensed certified social worker and evaluated grants to support nonprofits and after-school programs, according to her family.

“She was always about dedication and hard work,” said her brother, Frederick Lewis.

Lewis parlayed her expertise on relationships into a book, “Don’t Hate the Player, Learn the Game: How to Spot ‘Ineligible’ Eligible Bachelors,” and wrote articles on topics such as blacks in organized labor, relatives said.

She offered her insight on social issues for The Detroit News and other media outlets as well as appeared on nationally televised shows on CNN, FOX and BET.

In the 1990s, she was a guest on Smith’s “Back-to-Back” call-in TV/radio talk show.

During an episode focused on relationships, when fielding a call from a woman frustrated about finding a suitable partner, Lewis responded: “ 'Are you looking for Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now?' ” Smith recalled. “She just had the knack of identifying the human condition between males and females. She just was able to break it down and dissect relationships.”

Lewis started demonstrating that insight early on.

Born Oct. 1, 1947, she grew up in Louisiana with a large family.

She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology at what is now Grambling State University in three years. The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority member became a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee and quickly obtained a master’s degree.

After becoming a sociology instructor at Spelman College in her early 20s, Lewis accepted a research assistant role at Wayne State, where she completed her doctorate.

Her career spawned many honors and accolades, including a faculty award for excellence from UDM.

Retiring from the university in 2007, Lewis served as an adjunct professor in sociology and African-American studies at Wayne County Community College District, her family said.

“She loved to teach,” her brother said. “The most central part of her life was just dedication to learning and teaching.”

Lewis participated in a forum at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History of Detroit and spoke on human trafficking at the Coalition of Labor Union Women’s national conference, relatives reported.

Beyond her professional achievements, Lewis was devoted to her loved ones.

She organized an annual holiday gathering; tended to 92-year-old mother Onita McDonald Lewis before her death; and oversaw decisions involving the family’s parcel of land, her brother said. “She led the family. She was just a natural leader."

Other survivors include siblings Rose Marie Moorehead, James Harold Lewis, Bennie Jean Newman, Ann Louise Johnson, Lavern Jefferson, Rufus Lewis Jr. and Paul Stanley Lewis; and many nieces and nephews.

Services were held Friday  at the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, 2080 W. Grand, Detroit.

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