Former Olympian Carol Lewis becomes Human Resources Director


Ellison Albright

In 1980, at the age of 16, Carol Lewis qualified for her first Olympics in long jump. Since then, she has transitioned into the world of HR and is now working as the Human Resources Director at SJS.

Richard Liang and Ellison Albright

It was four weeks before the 1984 Olympics, and Carol Lewis was training for the long jump in California. As Lewis landed the jump in the training pit, she knew she had severely sprained her ankle.

“If I could change anything, I would not have gone into the Olympic Games injured,” Lewis said, “because I know that I would have won a medal at the ’84 Olympics.”

Born into a family of athletes, current Human Resources Director Lewis and her three brothers started playing a variety of sports in elementary school. Lewis’s mother, Evelyn Lawler, was an accomplished athlete who experienced firsthand the opportunities and promise that sports offered. Ever since attending the 1951 Pan American Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a hurdler, Lawler was determined to have her kids pursue sports.

“I did gymnastics in the fall, diving in the winter and ran track in the spring and summer,” Lewis said. “We were doing all kinds of sports.”

In 1980, at the age of 16, Lewis qualified for her first Olympics in long jump. Due to the Olympic boycott that year, however, Lewis was unable to compete. She qualified for the Olympic games twice more in 1984 and 1988 before retiring from competitive long jump.

“I was injured during both Olympic Games, so it was not a great experience, but my brother won a bunch of medals,” Lewis said. “It was cool for the family.”

Lewis attended the University of Houston after qualifying for the 1980 Olympics, majoring in radio, television and journalism. Following the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, Lewis switched occupations from professional athlete to sports commentator. For almost two decades, Lewis reported on various sporting events for NBC, including six Olympic games.

“I [commentated on] a lot of track and field because that was my sport,” Lewis said, “but over the years I have done precision figure skating, college football and even women’s tennis.”

In 2008, following the Beijing Olympic Games, Lewis left NBC and sports commentary entirely. She started working as a 911 operator but quickly pivoted to human resources because of the emotional toll she faced on the job. Lewis got her start in the human resources department with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the Houston Dynamo before coming to St. John’s.

Lewis’s parents were both high school teachers, so as a child she spent many hours in the classroom assisting her parents in their work. Her love for interacting with children made it natural for Lewis to transfer from business to education as the human resources director for St. John’s. 

“Carol’s really great with kids,” said Claudette Groenendaal, a close friend of Lewis and former NCAA All-American runner. “She has a great gift for interacting with them.”

At St. John’s, Lewis hopes to be a proactive member of the community by attending sports games and the annual Homecoming dance. She enjoys walking across campus and seeing kids collaborating in groups. However, in hindsight, her life path may have shaped out differently if she had not taken that one leap on that brisk, morning day in Santa Barbara, California.

“If I had won a medal in ’84, I may not be here,” Lewis said.

Lewis finished in ninth place at the ’84 Olympic Games. Despite falling short of a medal, Lewis has moved on from the results. She instead chooses to focus on all the good things that have transpired throughout her life due to her medal-less ‘84 Olympic campaign. 

“Things happen for a reason,” Lewis said. “It’s funny how things happen, but what you do with what happens is what makes the next step.”