On what would turn out to be the coldest New Year’s morning in a century, 19-year-old Roy Earl Hamilton of Sobel, Tennessee sat in a dark, borrowed, upstairs room at 2524 Gaut Street, Cleveland, Tennessee. He and 11 other hopeful students quietly watched as the stalwart Reverend
Nora Chambers lifted and rang a small bell at precisely 9:30 am, calling to order the inaugural session of Bible Training School. It was Tuesday, January 1, 1918. In more ways than one it was a beginning.
Lee University will celebrate its centennial anniversary throughout the 2018 year. The major institutional milestone will be commemorated by the school starting in January and continuing until the culminating event called Celebration, to be held Homecoming weekend, November 2 and 3.
“In the life of a university, a 100th anniversary is as big as it gets,” said Lee University President, Dr. Paul Conn. “This is certainly true of Lee. We have a story worth celebrating, and we look forward to doing it all year with friends and supporters.”
The institution now known as Lee University, began on the morning of January 1, 1918. At precisely 9:30 am, the first instructor, a woman named Nora Chambers, rang a small bell and called to order the first class of 11 members. The group was gathered in a second-story room located at 2524 Gaut Street in Cleveland, Tennessee. The name of the institution at that time was the Bible Training School.
Over the next 30 years, the school relocated first to Sevierville, Tennessee, before then returning to Cleveland in 1947 to its current location. In 1968 Lee became a four-year liberal arts college and in 1997, a university. Today, Lee University is listed as a top-tier Master’s Degree University with more than 5,000 students.
“To say that Lee has come a long way in 100 years might be an understatement,” said Vice President for University Relations, Dr. Jerome Hammond. “The 100-year story is an improbable one that includes a few twists and turns. We’re really looking forward to celebrating all of it this year.”
Chairman of the Centennial Committee, and Vice President for Institutional Research, Dr. Jayson VanHook, said the year-long celebration will include events for students, alumni, faculty, community members, friends, and supporters. “The committee has designed a broad schedule of events that embraces all of the important partnerships in Lee’s 100-year history,” explained VanHook. “The Cleveland community is obviously near the top of that list.”
VanHook said the schedule of events will be communicated throughout the year. “Our plan is to unfold these events and celebrations as we go, ending in the biggest centennial event called Celebration in November.” The university will open the year with a social-media celebration beginning Monday, January 1.