Woman smiling.

Nancy Dickson-Lewis

With a very heavy heart we announce today that Chapman University Professor Emerita Nancy Dickson-Lewis, former chair of the Department of Dance, passed away on Tuesday, March 23, after a lengthy battle with cancer. The entire College of Performing Arts and Chapman community offer our most heartfelt condolences to her husband David Lewis, and her daughters Allison and Whitney, and the entire family.

Nancy retired from Chapman in 2016 after a rich career spanning more than three decades of dance, choreography, and teaching, as well as influencing the lives and careers of generations of dancers. She began teaching at Chapman University in 1986 as an adjunct faculty member, bringing with her extensive experience, including teaching at several other colleges and studios in Southern California, and her many professional engagements, such as her post as artistic director of Dance Theatre West, a modern dance company based in Orange County. From 1999 she joined the full-time faculty and in 2012 she became the chair of the department.

Teaching and mentoring young artists was always Nancy’s passion. At Chapman she taught many courses and instituted a new curriculum that contributed greatly to the current excellence of the department. She also choreographed at Chapman and as a freelance choreographer at venues across the United States, and she received extensive recognition for her work. However, her strongest influence on the department was the way she tirelessly championed it, pushed everyone to be excellent, and created a vision for the department in a period of great growth both in number and quality of students. We are where we are today in great part because of her work.

While at Chapman Nancy received two awards for excellence in teaching, but her influence cannot be measured simply by her awards. Said Dean Giulio Ongaro, “Time after time, when talking to alumni who studied with Nancy, what comes through is her deep concern for each individual — the way she continued relationships with her students and provided mentorship, advice, and friendship well after their graduation from Chapman. By doing so, she touched many lives very deeply. We will miss her very much.”

Before she passed away, Nancy learned that the college had started a campaign earlier in the year to raise funds to name a space for her in the new dance facilities currently under construction. “We had hoped to surprise her at the grand opening, but it is heartwarming to know that she understood how much we care during her last days,” Dean Ongaro added. With her family’s permission, we suggest that those wanting to honor Nancy contribute to her space-naming fund by contacting our Development Coordinator, Bobby Reade, at reade@chapman.edu, or (714) 289-2085.