In his 2010 memoir “Driving With No Brakes,” Lewis wrote, “We had a big argument about the direction of my life.” “Actually, it was past its deadline Not enough of direction. Was I going to be a lifeguard for the rest of my life? ”
Heeding his father’s unsolicited advice, he got a job at his father’s small travel agency and soon started his own company. This was his first step towards becoming one of Boston’s most successful travel industry entrepreneurs.
Lewis, chairman of the Grand Circle international travel conglomerate and chairman of Kensington Investments, died Wednesday of an apparent heart attack at his home in Kensington, New Hampshire. At his 74th year, he was splitting his time between Boston and Kensington, the small towns his maternal ancestors helped settle in his 1600s.
Mr. Lewis, along with his wife Harriet, were one of Greater Boston’s most prolific and wide-ranging philanthropists. According to the Lewis family, the couple and their foundation have donated more than $250 million to his more than 500 projects in 50 countries.
Over the years, the Lewis family’s donations have also helped raise local funds Organizations and programs like the West End House Boys & Girls Club and The Boston Foundation’s StreetSafe Boston initiative reduce youth violence. The couple launched a community advisory group that works with organizations like Artists for Humanity and Freedom House, according to the Boston Foundation.
Nationally and internationally, their philanthropic contributions include a program at Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, a bee project run by the Maijuna indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, and solar power initiatives in villages in India and Tanzania. is useful for
Having built his first travel business, sold it, acquired and built another travel company, and started a philanthropy that didn’t fit into an established model, Lewis developed a philosophy he wanted to share.
“Breaking the rules,” he said in an interview at the University of New Hampshire several years ago, posted on YouTube.
“Keep breaking it. Keep making mistakes,” he says, adding, “This world wants to put you in a box.
Born in Boston on July 17, 1948, Alan Elliot Lewis was the son of Elizabeth Sawyer Lewis and Edward Lewis.
“My parents divorced when I was very young and I saw my father only occasionally,” Lewis wrote.
Edward was a convicted bookmaker as well as running United Travel Services, a travel business that provided Alan with an entry-level initiation into the industry.
Mr. Lewis credits his father for always teaching him to help the weak. And Mr. Lewis said his repeated address changes during his childhood had inadvertently prepared him for a career in the adventure travel industry.
“I was the new kid on the block, so I had a fight in a new place. It helped me prepare for life,” he said of his youth in an interview with UNH. It’s been great for me because I’m used to change, I’m used to adapting to a new place.”
Childhood also brought him to what he considered his spiritual home. When he was five years old, his mother began putting him on a Boston bus to visit his maternal grandmother, Ruth Sawyer, in Kensington.
In the late 1970s, Mr. Lewis and his wife purchased land in Kensington from their great-uncle. They expanded the property to his 600 acres in what is now known as his Alnoba, a retreat, leadership and wellness facility.
“He always called it a sacred spiritual place,” said Martha Pribilo, executive vice president of social missions at Alnova. I felt a special responsibility to care for him.”
While attending Newton South High School, Mr. Lewis met Harriet Rothblatt. They dated briefly and became a couple in their twenties.
“I grew up in a traditional New England household and turned to college,” she writes in her co-author, Driving With No Brakes. “Alan was a street-savvy kid with big dreams and a colorful past.
They married in 1972, the year before he co-founded Trans National Travel, and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last month.
In the mid-1980s, the couple sold their ownership interest to a travel agency (known as TNT) so they could travel more and spend more time with their two children.
At that time, Mr. Lewis heard that Grand Circle Travel was for sale. When we bought the company in 1985, it was losing $2 million a year. The couple has turned the business into a business with annual revenue exceeding her $600 million and 35 offices around the world.
They founded the Grand Circle Corporation. This includes his two other travel companies he acquired and Kensington Investments for handling the family’s real estate and investment assets, as well as philanthropic activities.
Harriet serves as chair of the Lewis Family Foundation. Their daughter, Charlotte of Marblehead, is Kensington’s Chief Operating Officer. Their son, Edward of Park City, Utah, is the CEO of Kensington.
Lewis has three grandchildren and a brother, Hank. His business disagreements with Hank were well-publicized, which led to a lawsuit. In addition, Mr. Lewis leaves his two half-brothers, Steven Rittenberg and Susan, to his Lewis.
The burial will be private and the family will sit to Lord Shiva at Alnova in Kensington from 4pm Monday to Friday.
“He took a lot of time out of our lives, physically or by phone, letter or email,” Charlotte said of her father.
“He was a really loving person,” she said. “He was the biggest mentor, the biggest coach, the biggest supporter. ‘I’ll always be by your side and have your back.'”
Even when it meant pushing through tough times, Lewis “had a serious code: telling the truth and chasing dreams,” she added.
“The last thing he said to me was, ‘Be comfortable being uncomfortable.’ That’s how I want to live my life,” Charlotte said.
Especially in later years, Lewis became more reflective, writing in a journal and sending “beautiful letters to colleagues and friends,” Charlotte said.
Mr. Lewis “was a serious man, but he also liked to have fun,” she said, and until the end he insisted that others do the same.
Before Lewis died, Charlotte said she had planned to go surfing on the beach with her son, but “I was tired so I decided to lay down.” “His last words to Edward were, ‘Go and have fun. “
Bryan Marquard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.