NEWS THAT New Jersey entrepreneur Henry M. Rowan is donating $100 million to Glassboro State College has overshadowed a Baltimore native's equally noteworthy gift to Harvard Law School.
Reginald F. Lewis, who was raised in West Baltimore and graduated from Dunbar High School, announced recently that he will be giving $3 million to Harvard Law School -- the largest single gift in the school's 175-year history.
Mr. Lewis, 48, is not a well-known figure in Baltimore because most of his career has been spent in the boardrooms of New York and European capitals.
He started out as a corporate lawyer and practiced securities law for 15 years -- first as member of the prestigious Wall Street firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison and then in his own firm of Lewis & Clarkson.
In the early '80s, he decided that it was time to be a deal maker rather than just an adviser to deal makers.
He formed the TLC Group. (Mr. Lewis says the initials don't stand for tender loving care but has not divulged what they stand for). In the past decade, TLC has participated in a number of successful leveraged buyouts, the largest being the $985 million purchase of Beatrice International in 1987.
Unlike many of the other takeover artists who prospered in the 1980s and have collapsed into bankruptcy in the 1990s, Mr. Lewis continues to do well. He is given high marks for his management of Beatrice's European operations, which operate grocery product and food distribution companies throughout the continent. He also pared away large amounts of debt.
Mr. Lewis doesn't like to be called an African American success story. Such a label, he says, circumscribes the person. And it is true. Labels -- such as Baltimore native, lawyer, financier and philanthropist -- by themselves don't adequately describe this man. Even so, Mr. Lewis is a success and deserves to be recognized as one.