Last year, Lee students completed 74,924 hours of community service. Students also participated in fundraisers to help fight cystic fibrosis and cancer, helped low income families and individuals file taxes, participated in blood drives and collected boxes for Operation Christmas Child.
“All of this is part of our commitment and promise that we will matter in this community,” Conn said.
Conn has been the university president for 25 years.
When he came to his position of president, Conn had “a very strong sense Lee had failed to be what Cleveland as a community needed it to be.”
This gave him a desire to make the university more involved in the community. Shortly after Conn became Lee president, he spoke to the Cleveland Rotary. Someone asked him how large Lee enrollment would get. At that point 25 years ago, the board of directors had hopes of reaching 1,500 students. Conn had said he did not see the school ever reaching 2,000.
Today the school has more than 4,400 students. (The exact number of students is unknown because registration for some 2011 students is still being finalized.)
“It takes a long time to develop a significant educational institution,” Conn said.
Conn said he was unsure how long that would be, but added it takes longer than one person’s lifetime.
“I have been very, very fortunate to be a part of this unfolding story at Lee,” Conn said.
He said he had been unsure when he took the position how long he would stay in it.
“The thing about young people in leadership is if you allow them to survive the early period, then they get hard to get rid of,” he joked.
The university’s president said Lee’s leadership is committed to a program of slow growth.
Conn said that kind of growth is harder than growing at a rapid pace because it requires growing within resources.
“I believe it is unnatural for successful enterprises not to grow,” Conn said.
Students at Lee come from every state in the U.S. except Idaho and Wyoming, and 58 different countries. Nigeria has the largest number of international students at Lee.
As enrollment at the university has grown, so has the campus. The latest project nearing completion is the chapel on North Ocoee Street.
“This is the most exciting project we’ve done since I’ve been president,” Conn said. “The rest of ’em you do because you need it. This one is just from the heart.”
During his presentation, Conn also took questions from the audience. One Rotarian asked how the Church of God felt about the growth and changes to the university.
“We have a church that has an extraordinary appetite for accomplishment and they are proud of what we are accomplishing,” Conn said.
Another question was how did the Paul Conn bobblehead originate.
“It’s a long story, but the students love them,” Conn said.