Andrew Marvin
Cover Story

“Let your journey   inspire others”
Honoring Albert Lewis

A conversation with Jeannie Lewis and Dori Lewis Smith as they reflect on their dad’s life and why they felt it was important to honor his memory through a $2.1M investment in WVU’s business school.

◆ 6 minute read

“Let your journey inspire others”: Honoring Albert Lewis

Homecoming is about revisiting the places, the people and the memories that shaped and inspired us.

For Jeannie Lewis and Dori Lewis Smith, 2023 Homecoming Week at West Virginia University was especially meaningful. The sisters returned to the town they grew up in and the campus that played such an important role in their lives to remember a man who inspired them and many others through his generous spirit, tireless work ethic and humble heart: their beloved dad, Albert Lewis.

After serving his country in the U.S. Marines and earning his business degree at WVU, Lewis revolutionized the glass industry worldwide. In 1968, he founded Glass Inc. and, through the next five decades, he championed it through the expansion of 30 glass manufacturing facilities around the world until his passing in December 2022. (Learn more about Albert’s extraordinary story here.)

The business he left behind is in good hands – his daughters, Dori and Jeannie, are shepherding the continued success of Glass Inc. For the sisters, sustaining his business is the easy part.

They have made honoring the legacy of a man who loved unconditionally, gave everyone a chance and spent his entire career paying it forward their purpose – and they are using it as a catalyst to better the people and places that influenced his story.

Jeannie and Dori had the honor of dedicating the Albert Lewis Atrium in Reynolds Hall in October 2023, named in memory of their dad.

The $2.1 million gift also supports the Chambers College student mission through the Lewis Fellows, which will provide experiential learning opportunities for business students working with Data Driven WV to give them hands-on training with project management, data analysis and operations.

The Chambers College spent some time with Dori and Jeannie to reflect on their dad, the lessons he left behind and what it meant to him to be a Mountaineer.

People who knew Albert Lewis speak of his exceptional character. What are the traits you remember most fondly about your dad?

Dori: Dad was so humble. Loyalty and forgiveness were at the core of his character. His most prominent character trait was to live by the golden rule and to love people, regardless of their transgressions. He really did that.

Jeannie: It didn’t matter who stepped on him or what they did - he forgave, he did the right thing and moved past it. Loving all and giving everyone a chance was in our dad’s blood. He would always pay it forward. He would stop what he was doing to help someone. If you need anything at any point in life, he would always help the best he could. He never stopped giving back. He believed we should let our journey inspire others.

What are the most important lessons you learned from your dad?

Dori: Never, ever quit. Dad was like a rabbit – he was nonstop. Work is in our blood. I’m a workaholic because of the work ethic he instilled in me.

Jeannie: His family came from Appalachian coal mining. Dad knew that coal mining wasn’t for him. He was the only person in his family of eight who went to college, but it didn’t change what he had learned growing up in a family of coal miners: that you have to work hard to get what you need for your family. So even though he didn’t take that path, it was always a part of him and it shaped all of his kids and how we approach work, too.

Albert Lewis was a deeply loyal Mountaineer. He had great heart for West Virginia and its people, a strong belief in the power of education, and a kind spirit that guided how he treated others throughout his life. This gift will serve as a meaningful and abiding testament to his legacy that will enable future generations of business students to learn in Reynolds Hall and gain hands-on, career-ready experiences as Lewis Fellows.

- Josh Hall, Milan Puskar Dean

What is a lesson from your dad’s life that students can learn from and apply to their own paths in business?

Dori: Dad always said that you can do anything if you work hard enough. You’re capable of anything if you go after it.

Jeannie: He took the GED to get into the Marine Corps. His math skills weren’t the best, but he didn’t let that stop him. He was self-taught until he got to WVU.

Why did you feel that this gift to the business school was the right choice to honor your dad’s legacy?

Dori: We got to know Dean Hall and really connected with him. His humility is a shared trait with our dad, and that was important to us.

Jeannie: Dad wanted to change the world through invention and never let anything stop him from doing it, and we believe that can inspire Mountaineers for generations to come. We were already supporting the Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute. The business school was so important to our dad; we wanted to make sure that part of his story was recognized, too. He was so humble that he would say he’s not worthy of this, but he deserves it.

What did being a Mountaineer mean to your dad?

Jeannie: Being a Mountaineer meant everything to my dad. He couldn’t afford to go to WVU football games, but he wanted to go so badly that he would pay for his admission with pennies to get into the old stadium.

Dori: He was the embodiment of what a Mountaineer is: loyalty, service to others, honor, respect. He was very protective and believed that family always comes first. He loved his family fiercely.