Rory Lee unanimous selection as Louisiana College president

PINEVILLE, La. (BP)--Rory Lee has accepted a five-year contract as president of Louisiana College.

Lee, 47, has been president and chief operating officer of William Carey College, Hattiesburg, Miss., since last summer.

Louisiana College's full board of trustees recorded a unanimous vote for Lee March 21, as had the search committee earlier, capping a year-long process to select the Baptist-affiliated institution's seventh president, succeeding Robert Lynn, who is retiring after more than 20 years in the post.

A starting date for Lee's presidency is yet to be set. When Lee arrives on the Pineville campus, he will bring 26 years of administrative experience, most of it at Mississippi College in Clinton, where Lee served in various capacities, including acting president for almost a year.

The unanimous vote surprised most observers, given recent tensions facing the college and its trustees.

"The search for a new president for Louisiana College has been a unifying effort for the board," trustee chairman Jim Spencer of Pineville said. "(Dr. Lee is) an outstanding young man who is both a professional college administrator and a dedicated Christian servant. Dr. Lee is a man that all Louisiana Baptists can rally around and support."

Even Lee viewed the unanimous trustee vote in such terms, commenting at one point that others had warned him to expect a divided decision. "I don't take this as a vote for me but as a vote for Louisiana College and the future of this institution," Lee told trustees after they agreed to offer him a five-year contract as president. "I challenged you when I came over (for the interview process) ... that the future of this institution is in your hands."

In 1989, Lee began a seven-year stint as vice president for institutional advancement at Mississippi College. In that capacity, he led in various fund-raising efforts and also coordinated alumni office activities.

In addition, for an 11-month span beginning in August 1993, Lee served as acting president of the Baptist-affiliated Mississippi school -- necessitated by the removal of the former president, Lewis Nobles, for embezzlement of college funds.

As acting president, Lee planned and implemented a crisis management program, directed an image building process and helped to stabilize the school's budget.

Lee remained as a vice president at Mississippi College for two more years after a new president was elected. In 1996, however, he left to become president of William Carey College. There, he has supervised faculty and staff hiring, coordinated the school's strategic planning process and developed new telecommunications and faculty development plans.

Lee began his administrative career while earning his master's degree in counseling at Mississippi College. During those two years, he served as an admissions counselor, with responsibilities that included coordination of alumni recruiting efforts. From 1973-78, Lee then served as dean of men at Mississippi College. His duties included supervision of men's dormitories, coordination of student drug education and organization of study groups for high-risk students.

For three years after that, Lee served as dean of admissions, supervising the admissions office, planning and implementing the school's recruitment program and writing all the recruitment literature.

From 1981-84, Lee served as director of development, supervising operations of the development office and leading a major fund-raising campaign. For five years after that, Lee worked as vice president for development, expanding his responsibilities in that area.

In two key campaigns Lee led at Mississippi College, the first had a goal of $7.5 million and closed at more than $11 million, while the second had an initial goal of $12 million -- a mark that was reached in just 12 months.

In student recruitment while dean of admissions, Lee led in increasing the school's enrollment by 26 percent, and he recruited the largest freshmen class in the last 20 years at the school.

Lee also served as a bivocational pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, Hazelhurst, Miss., for 17 years, from 1976-93. During that time, he led the congregation to build a new educational facility, grow in Sunday school enrollment and increase Cooperative Program giving.

"In accepting the presidency of Louisiana College, I pledge my full enthusiasm, effort and energy to this great institution which has a heritage of providing the highest quality education within a distinctively Christian setting," Lee said in agreeing to become LC president.

Lee expressed confidence he would be able to work with all Louisiana Baptists.

"I believe one of the reasons that I was elected to be the next president is because of my desire to work with all Louisiana Baptists. We as Louisiana Baptists are conservative by nature -- and I believe I can work with all Louisiana Baptists to bring about a great future for Louisiana College."

Lee said he sees himself in the mainstream of Southern Baptist life as far as theology is concerned. "I believe the Bible is God's Word and am in agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message statement," he noted. "I also believe that the purpose of a Christian college is to be a quality academic institution but also to assist the student in growing spiritually -- and that is extremely important to me."

Describing academic freedom as "absolutely critical to academic excellence in a college," Lee also noted, "Teachers must have the freedom to teach their disciplines. But at a Christian college, academic freedom is bordered by the mission statement of the college."

Lee and his wife, Janet, have two children, Lauren, 17, and Lacey, 13.

He earned a bachelor of arts degree at Mississippi College in 1971, his master's in counseling there in 1973 and a Ph.D. in higher education at the University of Mississippi in Oxford in 1984.