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Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award
Robert E. Lewis

As editor-in-chief and executive director of the “Middle English Dictionary,” scholar Robert E. Lewis brought to fruition what has been called “the greatest achievement in medieval scholarship in America.” A remarkable triumph of will, patience and intellect, the multi-volume dictionary is the definitive record of Middle English, the linguistic foundation of Modern English, and the standard work of lexical reference for medievalists throughout the world.

The “Middle English Dictionary,” begun in 1930, was two-thirds complete when Lewis took over in 1982. He brought a new standard of excellence and aesthetic discrimination to the last third of the dictionary, including increasing the number of quotations per entry and providing expanded lists of spellings and forms. Scholars around the world use both the print dictionary and the online version growing out of it (which is part of the Middle English Compendium) to illuminate literature, medicine, history, science and anthropology.

Lewis successfully recruited, trained and nurtured “Middle English Dictionary” staff and raised financial support from the University and external agencies to keep the project financially afloat. Under his leadership, the dictionary became a powerful expression of the University’s unshakeable belief in humanistic scholarship and pursuit of knowledge.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, Lewis worked on Pope Innocent III’s Latin treatise “De Miseria Humane Conditionis” (ca. 1195) and its influence on 14th-century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. He has published a number of books and articles, including in-depth studies of the religious poem the “Pricke of Conscience,” the most popular poem of the English Middle Ages, and (as co-author) “A Descriptive Guide to the Manuscripts of the Prick of Conscience and Index of Printed Middle English Prose.”

Described by colleagues as a “tresour, ‘a store of riches’ (MED sense 1. [a]),” Lewis is general editor of the Chaucer Library series, a member of the editorial board for the second edition of the “Oxford English Dictionary” (1989), and a former member of the Board of Regents of Mercersburg Academy.

Michael A. Savageau
Lawrence Sklar
Kensell D. Wise
Robert E. Lewis
Don B. Clewell
Andrew F. Nagy
Jeffrey R. Parsons
Julia Adams
Richard D. Woods
Fred C. Adams
Photios G. Ioannou


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