Jan Ellen Lewis, Maplewood resident and Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences – Newark (SASN) and Professor of History at Rutgers University—Newark, passed away on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, surrounded by her family and loved ones. She was 69.
Maplewood resident and former Columbia High School Principal Elizabeth Aaron shared this remembrance of Lewis with Village Green:
“She was a brilliant historian and a trailblazer for all in the field, but especially women as she shared wisdom from the ‘early’ years of doing what was then (and in the eyes of some, still, unfortunately ) finding and following the trails of stories that weren’t considered important and thus had not been told – especially those of women and families in early America. She was smart, funny, caring, supportive, and deeply cared about good teaching and collaboration. She admitted me to the graduate program in history and always wanted to hear how I was using that work in high school history teaching.
“During my oral competency exam, one question from Jan was all it took to ease my nerves and start talking — and to keep talking. She led me to learning and opportunities for years after I completed my master’s degree and her work as a leader at Rutgers-Newark was exemplary and inspiring.”
News of Lewis’s passing was reported in a post on the Rutgers University-Newark website.
This testimonial came from Chancellor Nancy Cantor in a message to the RU-N community: “Jan was a brilliant historian who challenged orthodoxies about the fullness of our understanding of early America (and early American heroes), a teacher and mentor who supported her students through triumphs and challenges, a colleague who nurtured the next diverse generation of the professoriate, an academic leader who cultivated boundary-crossing scholars and scholarship across the full breadth of the arts, humanities, and sciences, and a friend whom you could always count on to tell it as it is, no sugar coating from Jan, even as she handed you the latest Donna Leon mystery to take your mind elsewhere, for a time.”
According to Rutgers-Newark, Lewis met her husband, Barry Bienstock, at RU-N where they were both teaching. They were married in 1989. Bienstock is the Martin Sokolow Chair in History at the Horace Mann School. Lewis lived in Maplewood, NJ and is survived by her husband, son James, daughter-in-law Aislinn, and grandchildren Beatrice, 5, and Ida, 1. She is also survived by a sister, Beth.
The Rutgers University Office of the Chancellor and the SASN Deans Office will host a celebration of Jan’s life on October 13, 2018 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Essex Room of the Paul Robeson Campus Center at RU-N, 350 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Newark, NJ. All are invited to attend.
A scholarship fund to support undergraduate students at RU-N has been established in Jan’s name. All those wishing to contribute may do so by check made out to the Rutgers University Foundation, and mailed to:
Dean of Advancement
School of Arts and Sciences-Newark
360 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Newark, NJ 07102
Those wishing to make a credit card gift or any other type of contribution can call Ms. Margulies at: 973-353-1624.