Archive: On The Green
Issue: October 3, 2008 - Vol. 37 No. 41

Former president Dr. Jerry Lee returns to campus

Dr. Jerry C. Lee poses with the bison sculpture he helped Gallaudet acquire when he was the University's president.

September 16 was a homecoming to Kendall Green for Dr. Jerry C. Lee, Gallaudet’s sixth president. Lee, who led the University from 1984 to 1987 and is currently chancellor of the National University (NU) System, was on campus with a team of administrators from NU to discuss possible collaborations between the universities.

The visit also provided an opportunity for Lee to witness the advances Gallaudet has made over the past two decades.

Lee guided Gallaudet during a period of growth when the college attained University status. He remarked at a campus-wide reception that he was “very impressed” to see that this growth has continued at a steady pace since his days as president, and that the University community “has every reason to be proud.” In 1989 Lee became president of NU, which is based in La Jolla, Calif. and has 28 regional campuses, and served as its president until 2007.

Under Lee’s leadership, NU has become California’s second-largest private, nonprofit university with 22,000 full-time students. His dedication to making quality education accessible to under-served learners has led to NU’s ranking among the top 10 schools in the United States in the number of graduate degrees awarded to minority students.

At the reception, President Davila thanked his predecessor “for coming back to home base.” He described Lee as a “very productive, very energetic” president during his tenure at Gallaudet, and credited him in particular for helping to build a strong athletics program and developing a good relationship between the University and Congress.

Lee, who was president when the Field House was built, told an amusing story—with two possible endings—about how the University acquired the bison statue that stands at the Field House entrance. He said he first noticed the iron sculpture while driving past a construction site in Virginia. After returning to campus, Lee said he called the developer, explained that the bison was Gallaudet’s mascot and that Homecoming was approaching, and asked him to donate the statue to the University. “He laughed and hung up,” said Lee. “I called again, and said ‘please.’ This time he didn’t laugh—and hung up. Then I called and asked if he’d loan it. Twenty years later, it’s still there.”

An alternate ending to the story, he said, is that a group of friends of the University purchased the bison statue from the developer. Lee said he’d leave it up to the audience to choose the story ending they preferred.

During his return visit to Kendall Green, Lee and his colleagues met with Dr. Davila, Provost Stephen Weiner, and other University administrators to discuss possible collaborations between Gallaudet and NU: Developing joint degree programs between the two institutions; helping to make the Gallaudet community aware of NU’s online courses; and offering MSSD and Gallaudet students a discounted tuition rate to participate in NU’s online courses.

“I’m very excited about the possibility” of those collaborations, said Davila, adding that the day’s discussions were “very productive.” While the NU team, which included Patricia Potter, vice chancellor for System Operations and a former Gallaudet employee, met with Gallaudet administrators, Davila took Lee on a tour where he observed classes and learned about the technology used on campus.

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