Peter B. Lewis, chairman of Progressive Insurance Co. and one of the country's leading philanthropists, will be honored next month with Case Western Reserve University's first President's Award for Visionary Achievement. Lewis will accept the award from President Barbara R. Snyder at the university's commencement exercises on Sunday, May 18, at the Veale Convocation, Athletic and Recreation Center.
The university established the award this year to recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves through significant and exceptional service to the university and the world.
"The generosity of Peter B. Lewis has transformed organizations around the world. His philanthropy and personal engagement reflect great commitment to this university, the world and humanity," Snyder said. "Through his support and guidance, Peter has made a profound, positive and lasting impact on Case Western Reserve University. We appreciate his contributions to our institution and admire his great works for others. We are honored to recognize him as our first recipient of the President's Visionary Award."
Lewis was the lead donor for the new home of Case Western Reserve's Weatherhead School of Management, which now bears his name. Designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry, the soaring structure is more than a campus landmark; its interior space is specifically created to encourage collaboration and ingenuity among faculty and students.
"The building was to serve as a symbol for innovative thinking. The idea was to provide a unique and collaborative environment that would build a culture of community within the school to promote innovation, creativity and excellence." Lewis said.
His donation was the most recent gift in a series of contributions to Case Western Reserve honoring four generations of the Lewis family who were alumni of the university. Lewis also has literally passed on his formula for success to the Weatherhead students—in his own handwriting, the words "risk, learn, grow" and "Hard work makes winners" are etched into the concrete floor of the landmark building's main level.
Lewis's risk-taking, performance-driven philosophy has built Mayfield Village-based Progressive Insurance into a company that profits from customer satisfaction and is considered to one of the best-run businesses in the United States. In 1965, in one of the first leveraged buyouts in history, he took control of a small Cleveland insurance company with $6 million in revenues. Over the past 40 years, without making any major acquisitions, Lewis transformed the 100-employee company into a full-line auto insurer with 27,000+ employees and annual sales of $14 billion.
Lewis also continues to be a major arts patron with an extensive personal contemporary art collection. He helped create The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, where a gallery is named in his honor. He also served as chairman of the board of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, where he contributed more than $77 million toward endowment and other projects. He currently serves on the board of Princeton University, his alma mater. His Princeton gifts, totaling more than $220 million, support projects ranging from a small contemporary art gallery in the Princeton Art Museum to the Lewis/Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, to a University Science Library designed by Frank Gehry, and his most recent gift of $101 million to the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Creative and Performing Arts.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.