Winner of Eastern’s 2020 Social Justice Award

Robert Lewis, Jr.


Robert Lewis, Jr.

Robert Lewis, Jr. is a nationally recognized thought leader, public speaker, social innovator and passionate advocate for urban youth. Known as a bridge-builder and catalyst for collaboration among diverse business, civic and public-sector entities in Greater Boston and throughout the country.

His tireless advocacy on behalf of urban youth has brought him numerous awards and honors, including the New England Sports Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2015); Lewis Family Foundation’s Changing People’s Lives Awards (2016); East Boston Social Center’s Inaugural Community Activist Award (2018); Boston Municipal Research Bureau’s Henry L. Shattuck Public Service Award (2019); and Robert F. Kennedy Action Corps’ Embracing the Legacy Award (2019).

In January 2020 at Boston’s 50th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, Robert was honored for modeling Dr. King’s inclusive approach to leadership through their commitment to social responsibility. Boston Magazine and the Boston Business Journal have recognized Robert as one of the city’s 50 most powerful and influential leaders. He served on Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s 2014 transition team, the UMass Boston Chancellor Search and currently Co-Chairs the Governor’s Statewide Black Advisory Commission.

He formerly served as Executive Director of the Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF), President of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), Senior Vice President of City Year’s National Operations, Executive Director of City Year Boston, and Vice President of Programs at The Boston Foundation, where he directed the distribution of more than $18 million in discretionary grants annually. At the Boston Foundation, he was chief architect of two ground-breaking initiatives: StreetSafe Boston, the country’s only privately funded ($15 million) anti-gang violence prevention program; and CHAMPS Boston, which provided professional-level training for over 5,000 youth-sports volunteer coaches in the Greater Boston area.

In 2013, Robert launched the BASE – aimed at shifting the national mindset about what it takes for urban youth to succeed. By leveraging the power and passion of sports to open pathways to higher education and meaningful employment in today’s workforce. The BASE has established affiliated programs in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh. Its annual National Urban Classic in Boston has become the showcase for the best in urban youth sports throughout the country.

Hailed by Baseball Hall of Fame sportswriter Peter Gammons as “hands down, the best urban baseball program in the country.” In 2012, Triple Crown Sports named them its Team of the Year, topping a field of 40,000 programs. The BASE has grown, moving into new National Headquarters in May 2019, it has incorporated softball, girl’s baseball, and basketball into its unique blend of sports training & development with academic support services.

Robert remains a highly sought-after public speaker on issues of race, equal opportunity, youth sports, higher education, and what the 21st Century workforce can and should look like. He has addressed thousands of attendees at major national conferences and on college campuses across the U.S. He serves as Executive in Residence at the Lewis Family Institute at Babson College, and received honorary degrees from Assumption College, MA; Cambridge College, MA; Franklin Pierce, NH; William James College, MA; Simmons College, MA and New England Law School, MA.


Past Recipients of Social Justice Award


Year Name Organization
2019 Ronald F. Ferguson The Basics
2018 Paula A. Johnson Wellesley College
2017 Chau-ming Lee Asian American Civic Association
2016 Marylou Sudders Executive Office of Health & Human Services, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
2015 John E. Rosenthal Meredith Management, Stop Handgun Violence, Friends of Boston’s Homeless, & Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI)
2014 Jeffrey C. Riley Superintendent of Lawrence Public Schools
2013 Mayor Thomas Menino City of Boston
2012 Rebecca Haag AIDS Action Committee
2011 Suzanne Kenney Project Place
2010 Eva Millona Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition
2009 David Waters Community Servings
2008 Mindy Lubber Ceres
2007 Dr. Jim O'Connell Boston Healthcare for the Homeless
2006 Julie Marston & Dr. Cal Cohen Community Research Initiative of N.E. ("CRI")
2005 Carol Rose ACLU of Massachusetts
2004 Mary Bonauto Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
2003 Anne Peretz & Cheryl Vines The Family Center
2002 Dr. Julia Brody Silent Spring Institute
2001 Jonathan Scott Victory Programs
2000 Sister Barbara Whelan Bridge Over Troubled Waters
1999 Philip Mangano MA Housing & Shelter Alliance
1998 Robert A. Sable Greater Boston Legal Services
1997 Anna Bissonnette, Elsie Frank & Ruth Cowin Committee to End Elder Homelessness
1996 Kip Tiernan Rosie's Place
1995 Todd Summers AIDS Housing Corporation
1994 Sister Jeannette Normandin Ruah
1993 Westy Egmont Greater Boston Food Bank
1992 Loretta Davis Cambridge YWCA
1991 Jackie Jenkins-Scott Dimock Community Health Center
1990 Lisa Chapnick Public Facilities Department
1989 Richard Ring Pine Street Inn