Educator wins national community leadership award

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of Dr. James B. .


KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University faculty member is among a select group of people from across the country to receive a 2012 President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Community Leadership Award.

Dr. James B. Lewis, WMU associate professor of human performance and health education, was announced in late April as one of this year's honorees.

The Community Leadership Award is presented annually in recognition of the recipients' efforts to improve the lives of others by making sports, physical activity, fitness and nutrition-related programs available in their communities.

The award is presented by the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, a committee of volunteer citizens appointed by the U.S. president who serve in an advisory capacity through the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The council promotes healthy lifestyles through fitness, sports and nutrition programs and initiatives that educate, engage and empower all Americans.

Lewis was nominated for the Community Leadership Award by WMU's Office of Service Learning. He was cited for working diligently with and for underserved youth, as well as WMU students, and for making a broad impact.

He is an active member of WMU's Lewis Walker Institute Fellows Program, which engages community partners with WMU faculty, staff and students, using applied research and service projects to address community-identified needs. He also is a key planner and implementer of free sports programming for local low-income children.

Shawn L. Tenney, WMU coordinator of service-learning, notes that in one neighborhood alone, Lewis is involved with a youth basketball program that draws some 60 children each week as well as with a year-round youth soccer league that primarily serves Hispanics and draws 30 families each week. Both programs take place on WMU's campus, and families are encouraged to come with their children. In addition, a new football program is expected to draw up to 100 youth in the first year.

Those sports programs incorporate a resiliency curriculum during "half-time," with players learning and practicing resiliency skills that are then reinforced through play.

"Jim not only attends and coaches almost every game, but he also recruits other WMU faculty and students to participate as assistant coaches and mentors for the younger kids," Tenney says. "His leadership in community-based service has substantially impacted the quality of life for these youth and their families, and his dedication to this and other projects is an inspiration and call to service for those of us fortunate enough to work alongside him."

James Lewis

Lewis, a WMU faculty member since 1995, is a recreation expert who has an added research specialization in rural tourism, especially the development of rural areas through tourism development.

He coordinates the master's program in sport management offered by WMU's Department of Human Performance and Health Education. He has served as technology coordinator for that department and holds certifications as a recreational sports specialist and an Amateur Softball Association umpire.

Lewis earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale; a master's degree in recreation administration from SIU; and a doctoral degree in human performance-leisure behavior from Indiana University, Bloomington.

For more information about the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Community Leadership Award, visit or contact Shawn Tenney at or (269) 387-2139.