» Top Pick: Selected from 75 applicants during a 1½-year search, Libby will oversee the DeLand campus, Stetson’s law school in Gulfport near St. Petersburg and two satellite facilities in Tampa and Celebration.
» In the Meantime: President of Stephens College in Columbia, Mo. (since 2003)
» Education: Ph.D., educational administration, University of Connecticut; MBA finance, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University; bachelor’s, biology/genetics, Cornell University
When Lee, a native of Danville, Va., became president in 1987, he undertook a mission to make Stetson more diverse and inclusive and an integral part of the community.
With his retirement set for May 31 as Stetson turns 125, Lee looks back on his tenure as a time when the university came into its own. It has grown to four campuses and 4,300 students. Today, women and minorities account for up 40% of Stetson’s academic and administrative officers. In November, the university named Wendy Libby, president of Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., to replace Lee. She will be Stetson’s first woman president.
Over the years, Stetson has expanded its focus to include not just academics but also social responsibility: It adopted nearby low-income communities, starting micro-credit programs and sending students and professors to volunteer. It began a distinguished lecture series on civil rights. It renovated buildings to bring them up to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards and installed native landscaping that requires less water and maintenance.
“It’s a radically different environment than it was in 1983 (at its 100th anniversary).”
— Doug Lee, outgoing president
And in a move Lee calls “an extremely hard decision” that created a huge economic challenge, Stetson severed its ties with the Baptist Convention in 1993, cutting off its main source of revenue because the two organizations no longer shared the same values.
Since then, the university has grown its endowment from $23,000 to $135 million. Lee, 65, credits a team effort for Stetson’s achievements. “The whole community became impassioned about transforming the university and solidifying our mission,” he says. “Twenty-five years ago, we were respected and they knew we were here, but we didn’t work as partners.”