The younger Lewis studied mechanical engineering at the Institute, where his student leadership foreshadowed his future commitment to serving his community. Decades later, he and his wife, Anne, gave to Caltech through a charitable remainder unitrust.
“Dad just loved Caltech, and Mom supported him in everything,” says Katharine Lewis, the couple’s daughter. “They wanted to leave the world in better shape than when they entered it.”
Joe Lewis’s years at Caltech were marked by avid involvement in athletics and student government, including playing tennis and serving as senior class president. Early in his career, he began working closely with another Caltech alumnus, Arnold Beckman (PhD ’28), inventor of the pH meter. Lewis managed two of Beckman’s companies, and he later ran his own electronics business for 35 years. At various times, Lewis was president of the Caltech Alumni Association, president of the San Marino school board, and vice-mayor of San Marino.
Joe and Anne Lewis were a study in contrasts: He was the straight arrow, methodical and staid, while she was colorful and unorthodox. But they shared an abiding love and a deep dedication to public service. In just one example, the San Marino Rotary Club honored the Lewises in 1995 for four decades of “service above self.”
Their influence even extends beyond Earth: Joe Lewis’s company made parts that went to the moon with the Apollo 11 Lunar Module in 1969, and an astronomer friend named an asteroid she discovered “(4796) Lewis” in the couple’s honor. When the Lewises entered a retirement community in 1995, they made a gift of their San Marino home to Caltech through a charitable remainder unitrust. The gift ensured that they would have payments for life and also reduced their tax burden.
“They were able to lower their estate taxes while supporting Caltech,” Katharine says. “I think they jumped at the chance.” As members of the Caltech Associates, the Lewises enjoyed travel in their later years, including trips to Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia. Joe died in 2013, and Anne in early 2019. Their legacy—whether floating around the cosmos or supporting Caltech people—continues on.