Hammonds offers MainStreet glimpse of Lee's centennial celebration

Posted 4/17/18

MainStreet Cleveland’s program for its membership Monday was from a place big enough to have its own main street and a good neighbor to the city’s main street.

Dr. Jerome Hammond, Lee …

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Hammonds offers MainStreet glimpse of Lee's centennial celebration

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MainStreet Cleveland’s program for its membership Monday was from a place big enough to have its own main street and a good neighbor to the city’s main street.

Dr. Jerome Hammond, Lee University vice president of community relations, spoke of the school's ongoing centennial celebration and the special events being held in conjunction with the important anniversary.

But, much of the conversation centered on Lee’s special relationship with Cleveland.

“Lee University, from top to bottom and from front to back, loves being a part of this community,” Hammond said. “I think you can see that in the ways we operate — whether its how we build our buildings or how we try to cooperate with the downtown.”

Hammond mentioned Lee’s Encore class series, which can be attended for $25.

“Most of those courses are designed for Encore students, and they do everything from traveling out West, to a course called ‘Tennessee in Tennis Shoes,’ where they visit historic sites around the state,” Hammond said. “There is also an Accounting III, I don’t know why, but we offer it. Any course we offer at Lee, you can take two of those for $25.

“Years ago, we thought we should open up what we have here at Lee to the [broader] community,” he said “We have such magnificent, world-class teachers. Lee hires and retains professors on their ability to perform in the classroom.”

Hammond said the city is in “sort of in this golden zone of a perfect mix of industry, community, education and business.”

“What comes to my mind is: ‘blessed,’” he said. “This is a deeply blessed community — a lot of talent and a lot of care about what goes on.”

Hammond then turned the attention to the ongoing centennial celebration.

“A university reaching its 100th anniversary is a pretty big deal,” he said. “If you look at the history of American higher education, the mortality rate is pretty high.”

“Where most universities start, as compared to where they have to get to to not only stay alive but thriving, is a very treacherous ground,” Hammond said. “There is a lot of evolution that has to go on. Schools have to almost perpetually re-evaluate themselves, their mission and how they are going about it.”

He said many schools over the years have not been able to make those transitions and were not able to reinvent themselves.

“Lee was no exception to that,” Hammond said. “We have come narrowly close, twice, to having to close the doors, the most recent in the mid-'80s when we were literally about two semesters from being insolvent and having to close the doors.”

Hammond said celebrating 100 years is “not a matter of opening the doors in the morning.”

“It is sometimes a very, very tough re-evaluation of the mission and how we are going about it,” he said.

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