Dr. Conn: Lee continues to grow, build
by By LUCIE R. WILLSIE Associate Editor
Oct 21, 2012 | 1036 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sunrise Rotary
THE BRADLEY SUNRISE ROTARY organization gave more donations to two local organizations out of this year’s Gala fundraising dollars. The local American Cancer Society received $5,000, as did the local Salvation Army. From left are Pat Fuller, president of the Sunrise Rotary; Jim Davis, president of the Sunrise Foundation, which oversees the donations; Tammy Leatherwood, event co-chair, and Angela Mathis, senior community representative, both from the local American Cancer Society.
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Since 1986, Dr. Paul Conn has been the president of Lee University.

And, over the past 26 years, Lee University always has been “growing and building,” Conn said.

One example of recent growth is the recorded number of students, from the low 4,000s to almost 5,000. The reason is the inclusion of almost 700 online students who hadn’t been counted until recently.

“For several years, we’ve had online classes,” Conn said, “Other schools in Tennessee have already been including online students ... but we haven’t counted them.”

Students at Lee University come from all 49 states and 57 countries, many from Nigeria, totaling close to 300. This year, only Nebraska wasn’t represented from the U.S. states; last year, Idaho; and the year before that, Montana, Conn said. Almost 50 percent of all Lee University students, however, are in-state enrollees, largely from Middle Tennessee. Only a few years ago, Conn said, only around 33 percent of all Lee University students came from Middle Tennessee, most of them close to the Interstate 75 corridor, but increasingly from the surrounding Nashville area.

“The trend is to go to schools closer to home,” Conn said. “But still to go off to college. Just not very far.”

Almost 60 percent of students are co-eds, almost matching the national average.

Almost 15 percent of all Lee University students are non-Caucasian, Conn said, and they are helping to transform parts of the school, especially the music department, in a “fantastic way,” Conn said.

Four schools make up the Lee University system — Arts and Sciences, with 2,140 students; Education, with 740 students; Religion, with 398 students; and music, with 337 students.

And, although Lee University is often known for its music program, the music department comprises only around 10 percent of the school’s attendance.

“But [the music department] makes us one of the top five music schools in the state and the largest for a private school [in Tennessee],” Conn said.

The most popular major is psychology, with interdisciplinary studies with licensure, what used to be called elementary education, business administration, health sciences and music following next in line.

Almost 700 full-time employees work at Lee University, with another roughly 850 additional employees.

Some of the new buildings that now grace Lee’s campus include Hughes Hall and the new chapel, which has seen 45 weddings under its roof just this year alone — so far — even though it wasn’t originally built with this purpose in mind, Conn said.

And, another of Lee University’s best kept-secrets is that it has one of the busiest health clinics within the city of Cleveland on its campus, with almost 11,000 patient visits per year, and is staffed with five nurses and six secretaries.

“We decided to get serious about a good clinic,” Conn said.

And, not only does Lee University serve 15,000 meals each week, several name-brand food chains are available on campus, including Einstein Brothers Bagels, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jazzman’s Cafe, Chick-fil-A, and simply to go.

“We’re in the health business,” Conn said, “and we’re in the food business. ... And, we’re still growing, we’re still building,” Conn said. 

In other business:

— The Bradley Sunrise Rotary organization gave more donations to two local organizations out of this year’s Gala fundraising dollars. The local American Cancer Society received $5,000, as did the local Salvation Army.

— The Sunrise Rotary also donated a flat screen TV for the waiting room at the Bradley Healthcare and Rehabilitation facility.

— The Relay for Life kick-off meeting will be held Oct. 30 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church starting with a breakfast at 7:30 a.m., followed by a meeting at 8 a.m. For more information, call Tammy Leatherwood, event co-chair at the local American Cancer Society, at 303-6950.