"The future of our planet is dependent upon how we prepare the youth of the world. Let them dream, explore and achieve for not only the betterment of themselves, but for the global community.
James W. Lewis is President of the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), which he established in 2002 along with friend and co-founder, Claes Nobel, senior member of the family that established the Nobel Prizes.
NSHSS supports over 1.3 million lifetime members, ages 15 to 32, from 160 countries and is recognized as the world’s largest honor society for young high achievers. As the president of NSHSS, James is a mentor for high school students from freshmen to seniors and to college students making the transition to their career. NSHSS is designed to recognize diverse students and encourage them to be a positive influence through service, leadership, and volunteer programs.
In 2015, James was named a Top 10 Diversity Champion by The Global Diversity List, published and supported by The Economist. James’ vision for diversity and inclusion and international education is reflected in NSHSS’ partnerships with world-class educational and leadership programs from around the globe. NSHSS has university partners that provide scholarships, host member events and offer academic and leadership programs to NSHSS members. The Society also partners with the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Department of State and many outstanding Fortune 500 companies. His constant pursuit of more opportunities for minority and underrepresented students led him to establish the NSHSS Foundation, which offers donor-directed scholarships and focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), Business, Finance, and Public Policy. Through special programs, the NSHSS Foundation connects students with additional opportunities to advance their education, personal growth and career interests. The NSHSS Foundation offers donor directed scholarships targeting underrepresented minorities that otherwise would not have the opportunity to take that leap forward to continue their education.
Growing up in an era marked by racial segregation and discrimination, James embraced the idea of diversity and early on stood against the grain by setting the framework after which many organizations now pattern themselves. James witnessed the disparity and challenges facing minority students, and immediately responded by creating the critical components needed to help resolve inequality in education.
James founded Golden Key International Honour Society in 1977 as an undergraduate at Georgia State University. The organization was the first step towards achieving the inclusion and global perspective in education that has been his lifelong commitment. Of the initial chapters established, several were at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU's).
In his 24-year tenure, Golden Key grew from his vision and passion to over 300 chapters worldwide, and his personal commitment to develop chapters for students in areas around the world including the United States, Africa, Australia, Malaysia and Canada. James built Golden Key to recognize outstanding diverse students and encourage them to focus on service, leadership, volunteerism and equal opportunity. Golden Key is the world's largest honor society for college students.
James was the youngest recipient of the American Eagle Award from the Invest In America National Council presented in the U.S. Senate. This award is bestowed upon recipients who exemplify outstanding leadership and make significant contributions to the American free enterprise system. Other recipients include President Ronald Reagan, Malcolm Forbes and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Warren Berger.
As a visionary, pioneer and mentor, James has enjoyed the opportunities to connect with and serve his community in various roles. These roles include serving on the Inter-Association Task Force on Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse, which sponsors Alcohol Awareness Weeks on college campuses throughout the United States. James also served as a strategist for the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He also served on the board of directors for the Friends' Health Connection, an advocacy organization connecting people with similar health conditions with each other and to vital resources.
James was awarded GSAE's Allen R. Johnson Leadership Award in 1998 as a top leader for association management throughout the state of Georgia. This award is given to leaders that exhibit the ability to influence others by modeling positive behavior, gaining cooperation from others and fostering creativity in innovative thinking. James was a two-term board member of the Georgia Society of Association Executives (GSAE), a professional association of trade organizations and associations, as well as a trustee on the GSAE Foundation Board.
A pioneer in AIDS awareness and education, James was committed early to local, regional and national efforts for AIDS education, research and housing. He, along with the CEOs of New York Life, MetLife, The Elton John Foundation and Billie Jean King, served on the national advisory board of the National AIDS Fund, the largest private funder of AIDS education at the time. James created awareness and encouraged others to take up the fight against AIDS by bringing the AIDS Memorial Quilt directly to his college constituency, and encouraged them to take the Quilt to their campuses and communities. James was honored, among other prominent leaders, to be one of the first readers of names for the Quilt on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Shoichiro Toyoda, former chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation, identified James as an international thought leader of the 21st century on promoting new ways to address major social and economic challenges from an educational perspective. James was called on to serve as a discussant at an International Symposium Innovations through Education and Social Entrepreneurship among other notables from Norway, Japan, and representatives from other G8 countries in government, universities and business.
Selected as an Olympic Torch Bearer in 2002, James, carried the Olympic flame through the Atlanta neighborhoods surrounding the Martin Luther King Memorial. He currently serves on the Advisory Board for “be a STAR” (Show Tolerance and Respect), an anti-bullying campaign created by The Creative Coalition. The Creative Coalition educates and mobilizes leaders in the arts and entertainment industry with organizations like NSHSS on issues of social importance.
In 2012, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta bestowed the city's top honor on James, The Phoenix Award, in appreciation for his outstanding contributions to the City of Atlanta and its citizens. "Atlanta is truly blessed to say James W. Lewis is one of her own. He gives so much to students and works hard along side of them to set an example for others to give selflessly," stated Mayor Reed.
Also in 2012, James was awarded the Champions Awards at the World Diversity Leadership Summit. Nearly 400 senior global executives from over 150 of the world’s leading corporations were a part of the international summit. James received this award for his passion of opening doors and opportunities for young leaders from around the world. Concerning this honor and award, Todd Corley, Founder of The TAPO Institute, says “James’ personal commitment to diversity leadership is unparalleled and is evidenced in his life’s work to provide students with resources to excel academically and professionally. This is a wonderful achievement for both James and NSHSS.”
Throughout his life, James has set a path left and left his mark on every organization to which he has lent his expertise in organization, activism and scholarly support. However, true to his nature, when asked about his greatest accomplishment, he replied, “to encourage young leaders to be the best they can be by learning, leading and changing the world.”
At Georgia State University (GSU), James earned his Bachelors in Business Administration (B.B.A.) degree followed by a Master's Degree in Public Administration (M.P.A.). James’ keen insight into the psyche of international education, policy and business played a critical role in the revamping of the curriculum for their MPA program.
While dedicating himself full-time as the CEO of Golden Key, James made time to teach at GSU's Andrew Young School of Public Policy at the graduate level for many years, serving on the board of the Alumni Association. He was also the commencement speaker for GSU in the year 2000. James was recently honored to be selected as a University Trustee at Oglethorpe University.
James is an avid outdoor sportsman who enjoys hunting, fishing and snow-skiing, and is a certified scuba diver. He also currently plays for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA), when he and his team won the city championship at A and AA levels. He loves spending time with his children, and has recently become a grandfather.
The mark of a true visionary is not in the projects he creates; it is in the benefits that others reap moving mankind forward. James W. Lewis has set the bar in empowering youth in the world of scholarship, academics, diversity, inclusion, international education and volunteerism with his programs, leadership and genuine care for humanity.
When Claes Nobel, of the Nobel family, reflects on his personal friend, James Lewis, he is reminded of a famous quote by Emerson: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”