By Charles Hallman
Quincy Lewis says a large part of his new role as an associate development officer at the University of Minnesota is to create and maintain “the passion” among the school’s many supporters. He also wants to improve relations between the school and the city’s Black community, which historically have generated mixed feelings over the years.
“As for the African American community, we have to do a better job of asking for engagement, and when we get engagement then we have to perform,” proclaimed Lewis in a recent interview with the MSR.
With a new president and new athletic director, “I think sometimes when you have change, there’s new opportunities. Now it’s time to step up and come with some fresh ideas, some fresh engagements and some opportunities. I think it’s a great opportunity for the university to be aggressive” in this area.
Lewis said he is keenly aware of the historical distance between the school and the city’s Black community. “The question is, ‘Has the Black community in Minnesota really embraced the opportunities that they have had, or will there be more?’ Probably. But what I think is important is for me, the community in general, and the African American community to be engaged. Hopefully I can shed some light and be able to engage, and make people feel better about [the school].
“It’s not just about athletics for me, but the whole university.”
“One of the reasons why I am excited about this job is because…I am aspiring to do a lot more in the African American community with the engagement piece,” said Lewis.
The Little Rock, Arkansas native first arrived at Minnesota in 1995 as a highly touted basketball player. He left four years later for a pro basketball career as the school’s sixth all-time leading scorer and topped his Gopher career as a first-team all-Big Ten as he led the conference in scoring in his senior year.
After a pro basketball career in the NBA and overseas, Lewis returned to the area several years ago, and after a conversation with a longtime athletic administrator, he began seeking a career in athletic administration while working on his master’s degree at his alma mater.
Lewis said he chose fundraising after being told that if he ever wanted to one day become a collegiate athletic director, he has to be able to convince donors to provide funds.
This is Lewis’ second stint in the school’s athletic department. “That was something I wanted to do to reach that level,” admits Lewis of his previous two-year internship with the school’s Golden Gopher Fund (2010-12), even though he’s fully aware that there are Blacks in athletic leadership roles. It’s a field in which “you have to be charismatic and learn about sports to be successful, and be willing to work and get an opportunity, like anything else,” he notes.
The university press release announcement on his hiring last month as associate development officer indicated that Lewis’ primary focus will be on major fundraising and capital campaign development, including support for the proposed Gophers’ basketball practice facility. For obvious reasons, Lewis being a former Gopher basketball player, it would seem that having him in that role would be a natural fit
But he quickly pointed out, “A lot of people think my sole role is basketball. My [main] responsibility is to go out and fuel the passion among the supporters of the university. It’s not just about money, but the engagement piece that’s important.
“It’s not just about athletics for me, but the whole university,” noted Lewis. “That’s one of the reasons why I’m excited” about the new job.
Lewis predicted that sometime early next year a “comprehensive plan on what’s needed” for the school’s athletic department will be announced. “The basketball [facility] definitely is a part of it,” he said, adding that current U of M Athletics Director Norwood Teague helped build a similar facility at VCU, his former school, “and he wants to build one here.
“A lot of exciting stuff will come in the new year,” Lewis promised.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-record er.com.