DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The dean of the North Carolina Central University School of Law was found dead in her hotel room Thursday.
Browne C. Lewis was attending a conference at the time of her death. She joined the university back in 2020.
Lewis died just a month shy of her 2-year anniversary with NCCU, according to a message from the university's chancellor.. She was an accomplished legal scholar, attorney and mentor.
"Her vision was clear from day one in leading the school as one that provides unique opportunities for diverse, talented future attorneys to be practice-ready practitioners," NCCU Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye said in a statement.
Dean Malik Edwards said Lewis was just making her impact on the community. He was devastated to hear about her sudden death.
"I think there's definitely a hole. But the good thing is, she had a vision, and she put that vision into place. And luckily, we have structures that allow those pieces to move forward," Edwards said.
He said she spearheaded and created so many opportunities for minorities in the law field and those programs and lessons will continue in her honor.
"She wanted to be a dean here because she wanted to be at an HBCU. Unfortunately, there are (few) opportunities for first-generation students and for minority students to become lawyers...African Americans represent less than 5% of the bar and that's something she wanted to change," he said.
We also spoke with Cassandra Stokes who graduated from NCCU in 2016 with her law degree and has since worked closely with the school and Dean Lewis in her two years
"The legal community is in shock with the sudden loss of an outstanding attorney and educational leader. NCCU is a very tight-knit family. And it's always devastating and heartbreaking to lose anyone this way," Stokes said.
She asks that everyone keep their community in their prayers, especially the students who are now missing her guidance.
"Students who just graduated, and more importantly, they're preparing and studying for the bar. So I just hope that you know, the legal family and the DERM community, I just asked that you know, we continue to remain in prayer and comfort each other during these trying times," she said.
Their hope now is to lean on each other and carry on her vision and legacy.
"I knew her before she was here as a dean and she's always been a supporter and has looked out and tried to provide support to people of color entering the legal academy, that she had a vision for what she wanted the school to be. And I hope the way we pay homage to her is continuing to push forth and to be the best institution that we can be," Edwards said.
NCCU has not yet released details on a service or memorial.