Bev Lewis’ name is practically synonymous with Arkansas women’s athletics. And after she served Arkansas athletics in a variety of roles for more than three decades, it only makes sense.
Lewis’ career with the Razorbacks included positions as a coach and an administrator, saw the unification of Arkansas’ men’s and women’s athletic departments, the construction of multiple upgraded facilities for women’s teams and the addition of four women’s sports.
Lewis’ Arkansas tenure began in 1981 when she became the head women’s track and field coach. Lewis led the Razorbacks to six top-20 national finishes before moving into an administrative role in 1989. Arkansas achieved its first national team ranking, top 10 national finish and conference championship under her leadership.
But Lewis’ experience as head coach wasn’t like that of most of today’s Division I coaches.
“When I first got there, I was teaching five classes,” Lewis said. “I was the strength coach, the academic counselor, I drove the bus to the meets down to Houston and Austin. We didn’t have any funding.”
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Seeing the lack of financial support for the women’s program led Lewis to an interest in administration. She felt she could make an even greater impact if she worked in the athletic department than she could as a coach.
In 1989, she became the Director of Women’s Athletics. Among her first acts was hiring her replacement as head women’s track and field coach. She chose Lance Harter, the legendary coach who is still leading the national powerhouse Razorbacks more than 30 years later. He will retire in 2023.
Another successful hire made by Lewis was women’s golf coach Shauna Taylor. Taylor was the only assistant coach Lewis ever promoted, which she did in 2007. She has since been named SEC Coach of the Year twice.
“I’ve always had a lot of admiration for Bev,” Taylor said. “To be an athletic director when she was and having to sit at the table with all the guys and do such a fantastic job, I think she’s an amazing example of leadership.”
Lewis oversaw the additions of golf, volleyball, gymnastics and softball in the late 1990s. She cited those additions, as well as the construction and improvement of facilities such as soccer’s Razorback Field, tennis’ Billingsley Center and softball’s Bogle Park, as her proudest achievements.
It’s fitting that the first building on campus specifically for women’s sports was named for her: The Bev Lewis Center for Women’s Athletics. Completed in 2003, the facility serves as a training center for Razorback women’s athletes.
“Every time I get to walk in the Bev Lewis Center, I’m reminded of the mark she left on our university,” Taylor said. “We’re all indebted to Bev for the legacy and the mark that she left on our athletics department.”