Remembering Mac Lewis
Clarence McKenzie (“Mac”) Lewis,
PhD, 45, died March 8, 2020 in Toronto, Canada following a brief illness with pneumonia. Born in 1974 in Chappaqua, NY, McKenzie grew up in Edina, MN.
Mac had an unparalleled passion for the Classics. He spoke about it with joy and that joy was the cornerstone of his teaching. He was a dedicated and empowering teacher who energized his students to find their niche in Classical studies.
An archaeologist specializing in ancient Roman locations, Mac was a much beloved teacher and colleague. He earned his B.A. at the University of Montana, his M. Ed. in Latin at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and his Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology at Florida State University. His teaching career took him from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to the Intercollegiate Centre for Classical Studies in Rome, John Cabot University in Rome, the University of Wyoming, Concordia College-Moorhead, and then most recently in Canada, the University of Waterloo and University of Guelph.
From 2012 until his death, he was Director of the Villa del Vergigno Archaeological Project near Florence
, where he introduced 25 to 40 interns and students each year to the techniques, discipline and excitement of hands-on archaeology.
With his quirky sense of humor Mac loved a bad joke, a drink, a smoke, movies like the Big Lebowski, Fletch, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He loved music, The Grateful Dead being his favorite. He often joked that Weird Al Yankovic was one of his generation’s great musicians, “He goes from pop music to rap to polka! Show me another musician even CLOSE to as talented!” a telling example of his passion for trivial debates. He was quick to giggle and tease his loved ones. Possessing a generous heart, mind and spirit, he understood the power of kindness and picking “the path less traveled.”
In the first days of 2017 he met and fell in love with Tracey and her daughter Georgia. His dedication to being a supportive, loving partner and faithful contributing father were apparent in the smile that didn’t leave his face. His dedication was so resolute, he moved to Canada soon after they met and started a new life full of all the things he hoped for in a family of his own. He truly shined in this role.
He had a rich, authentic, loving relationship with his two siblings, Mike and Liz. They had a language of their own, knew exactly where to lovingly poke fun at one another; they would travel across states to celebrate birthdays and could stay up late into the night discussing everything from music, to 80’s movies, to family dynamics.
Video of Mac at his Tuscan dig:
– Video from friends, Peter & Amanda Savage Included in this Video
montage – with some pictures and Mac at the Villa del Vergigno Archaeological Project, in Montelupo Fiorentino
, Italy. (Amanda Savage is in this Video with Mac, in 2018).
Peter Savage: I was cleaning up pictures on my computer, when unexpectedly, a video starts playing that is of Mac in Montelupo at the dig site – explaining to Amanda and me what they know so far and his ideas about what the site was originally used for. It took our breath away to say the least. It brought us right back to being in Italy with Mac and the joy we felt during that trip. It also shows McKenzie’s passion. He was such an amazing teacher and had a way to include everyone in the things he loved so much.
Peter remembers McKenzie’s concerns about the unintended impact of sharing pictures of an Archaeological site.
When we were with Mac, I took a lot of pictures and this video. He told me many times “DO NOT SHARE THOSE ON SOCIAL MEDIA”. He was very concerned about dig thieves and says he always comes back in the early summer to see that the site had obviously been disturbed over the winter. He told me that there are amateur archaeologists who surf social media for the sole purpose of finding pictures of people who have found coins or other valuable artifacts and then go to these sites in the dead of night to dig with no regard to the site itself and scholarly work being done.