Having a pleasant-sounding voice was a gift that Fred Lewis used to build a reputation in San Diego broadcasting. But what he used it for was more than that – he gave his gift to the public so that others could be known and understood as well.
As a longtime teacher to those who attend and work at San Diego City College, he was responsible for waking up the inner voice that laid dormant in so many of his former students.
Now these voices of San Diego mourn after Fred Lewis, a longtime announcer, model, broadcaster and teacher died Sept. 6 at the age of 78. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2002.
However, illness alone was not enough to silence Lewis. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Lewis continued to work on his show “The Heart of San Diego,” in which he had conducted 653 interviews.
Lewis performed his last show with his wife, Jenny, on Aug 17.
On his show, Lewis was known for being interested in getting to know the real person and not just the celebrity that the media had portrayed, said Craig Chatfield, one of Lewis’ former students.
“He was very genuine” Chatfield said. “What you saw on TV was what you got in person.”
For over three decades, students at City College had the chance to find out “what you got in person” with Lewis, who taught many broadcasting students who have come through City College.
He helped his students to be more self aware and confident in front of an audience and he did so by encouraging them to be themselves and nobody else, according to Chatfield.
“He touched many lives and enabled many students to go on and have successful lives,” Chatfield said.
Evidence of Lewis’ teaching success is present at City College on the C Building’s Wall of Fame, which contains pictures of former City College students who have gone on to lead professional lives in broadcasting, many of whom were taught by Lewis.
In Lewis’ own work, his manner of reporting allowed others to see deeper than what a primary glance would suggest. Like others in the field, Lewis believed that most issues required some deeper examination.
This, however, was not applicable to the man himself, as many say Lewis was up front and open.
It is believed that through this personal style and lighthearted nature he was able to get anyone to tell him their story.
Laura Casta§eda, from the radio/television department, said that Lewis was a gentle, funny, man who could make anybody feel at ease.
Casta§eda recalled the breathing exercises Lewis would have students perform that the students would find humorous but, in effect, would loosen up both their vocal chords and the mood of the room.
According to Casta§eda, Lewis was a master at getting people to open up. This was a trait that lent itself to the well-being of students.
Chatfield recalled witnessing timid students clam up in front of the camera and how Lewis could always help them out of their shell.
Joe Kocherans, music director of campus radio station Jazz 88, said that Lewis could help students to find their own voice instead of imitating someone else’s.
Regarded as a master of his craft by his colleagues Lewis had earned such descriptions as “one of the best voices in broadcasting” and “a dignified man.”
Lewis was responsible for helping many people out during his teaching career and was regarded as a mentor to many, according to Kocherans.
Lewis will remain a mentor that people will remember for his commitment to his craft.
“He was dedicated to education,” Jay Otis Williams of Jazz 88 said.
In keeping with that dedication, a memorial scholarship is being established in Lewis’ name.
Donations to the Fred Lewis Scholarship at City College can be sent in care of the San Diego City College Foundation, 1313 Park Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101.