After fighting cancer since December, Diane Lewis, UC Berkeley School of Public Health alumna and UC Santa Cruz professor of anthropology emerita, died August 13 in her home surrounded by her daughter Raven Chaney and her grandchildren Kevin and Rosalie Chisolm.
Professor Lewis was born and raised in Los Angeles where she attended Manual Arts High School. After completing her B.A. and M.A. at UCLA, she obtained her Ph.D. in anthropology from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in 1962. While at Cornell, she did field work in Malaysia, and later published on Negeri Sembilan Malays’ rules for agrarian change, and fieldwork as ideology in anthropology.
UC Santa Cruz appointed Lewis as a professor of anthropology in 1974 after she had served as a member of San Francisco State’s faculty since 1962. While teaching at UCSC, Lewis completed a masters of public health in epidemiology at UC Berkeley in 1987 and was immediately awarded a University of California two-year grant by the University Task Force on AIDS Research. Professor Lewis was a pre-eminent activist scholar on black women’s response to inequality, the black family, back and white women prisoners, and black women’s health.
After retiring from UCSC in 1993, Lewis worked as a volunteer tutor with Santa Cruz’s Literacy Center for three years, tutoring English as a Second Language students. She was also a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for a year and a half. Lewis helped organize the Santa Cruz — Guama, Santiago, Cuba, Sister City relationship and co-led a delegation of bilingual teachers to a conference in Cuba in 2004. In 2015, she was a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Society for Applied Anthropology, and the Retired Public Employees’ Association. Lewis loved gardening and speaking Spanish.
She is survived by her daughter Raven Chaney, her grandchildren Kevin, Rosalie, and Corey Chisolm, her sister Candace Luster, brother George Lewis, niece Christian Havens and grandnephew Jared Perry.