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NANCY LEWIS

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NANCY LEWIS Obituary
November 9, 1949 - September 24, 2014 TULSA Former OU-Tulsa Vice President and State Representative Nancy Virtue Lewis passed from this life on September 24, 2014, after a long illness. Nancy was born in Oklahoma City on November 9, 1949, the daughter of the Reverend Dick Virtue and Suzanne Starr Virtue, of Norman. She received her BA in political science from Colorado College in 1972. She returned to Oklahoma, where she obtained a Master of Arts in teaching from OCU and taught sociology and psychology at Norman High School until 1977. Shortly after Title IX passed, Nancy coached girls' track, and in her second year, the Norman High girls' track team took second in state. She returned to Colorado Springs in 1977 and continued teaching, concentrating on students with mental health or behavioral issues at a hospital and a youth ranch. She received her D.Ed. in college teaching from OSU. Nancy had a fulfilling and varied life of service. Her passions were children, education, racial justice and persons with disabilities. While attending Harding High School during the racial strife of the 1960s, Nancy traveled throughout the Oklahoma City metro with a team of students giving talks promoting racial harmony. Her high school year book reflects the tongue-in-cheek prediction that she would be "the first white president of the NAACP." While teaching at Norman High, Nancy joined other teachers in lobbying at the State Capitol for public education. Nancy said that, as she and the others talked to legislators, she noticed all the legislators were "for education," but at the end of each session, little positive seemed to be happen. When the Oklahoma Education Association advertised for a full-time lobbyist, Nancy decided to leave the classroom and was hired as the first paid lobbyist for OEA. After two years, Nancy decided to run for the House of Representatives and was elected to represent parts of Cleveland County. She loved to tell the story about how her dad, Father Virtue, would knock on doors and refuse to leave the front porch until the constituent had promised to vote for Nancy. Nancy served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1982 through 1986. Her efforts were directed toward children and education. When she learned that the culture of some high school sports promoted the use of smokeless tobacco, with tragic consequences for some, she authored and passed a bill prohibiting the sale of smokeless tobacco to underage children. Above all, she worked for adequate and equitable funding for Oklahoma public schools. After choosing not to run for a third term, Nancy served as the first director of the Sooner Start program, then located in the Oklahoma Commission for Children and Youth, that was created as the result of amendments to the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In successfully seeking funding for the new program, she met with skepticism from legislators who wondered why scarce education resources should be spent on infants and toddlers with disabilities that would have a limited life at best. She explained how important the first three years of brain development are to what a child will ultimately achieve and finished by saying that every child should have the best life it can have. Nancy left Sooner Start after two years to help her husband campaign for office in 1990. After that race, she became the Executive Director of the Oklahoma County Medical Society. She left her job again in 1992 to help her husband make another campaign. When her husband became U.S. Attorney in Tulsa, she moved to Tulsa and became an administrator at Tulsa Community College. Later, President David Boren asked Nancy to lead the OU portion of the University Center at Tulsa. As the OU program developed in Tulsa, Nancy finally was doing her "dream job" as a Vice-President at OU-Tulsa when illness forced her retirement in 2005. Active in the community, Nancy was a founding trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and a board member of the Foundation for Tulsa Schools and the Community Service Council. She was a member and president of the Tulsa County Library Commission. Nancy was an active Episcopalian all her life, serving in many capacities. Of all the titles Nancy achieved, the one she wanted most was that of "Mom," which was given to her in 1995 by her son, Reed, who became the joy of her life. Nancy was preceded in death by her parents, Dick and Sue Virtue. Nancy is survived by her husband, Steve, and son, Reed, of the home; two stepchildren, Brad Lewis, Tulsa; and Sidney Bivings and husband Jay, Shawnee; two step-grandchildren, Zack and Taylor Bivings; one sister, Rebecca Virtue, Denver; two brothers and sisters-in-law, Richard and Belinda Virtue, Santa Fe; and David and Lynn Virtue, Vancouver, Washington; five nephews, Cary, Neil, Caleb, and Jacob Virtue; and Chris Spurlock; and one niece, Starr Smith. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Foundation for Tulsa Schools, 3027 S New Haven, #600, Tulsa, OK 74114-6131. Services will be at St. Aidan's Episcopal Church, 4045 N. Martin Luther King Boulevard, Tulsa, on Wednesday, October 1 at 11 a.m.

Published in The Oklahoman on Sept. 28, 2014
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