Black History Month – The Wesleyan Way: Walter Lee ’75

After graduating from Caldwell County High School in Princeton, Ky., in 1971, Walter Lee accepted an athletic scholarship to Kentucky Wesleyan College, where he helped guide the Panthers to two NCAA Division II sports appearances. Walter represented the KWC Panthers in the NCAA National Tennis Tournament in 1975 and was a member of the 1973 NCAA National Championship basketball team. Walter still holds the all-time career-win record in tennis at KWC, where he played the No. 1 position all four years. 

When asked about his experience at KWC and how the College helped prepare him for his career, Walter reflected on fond memories. “Kentucky Wesleyan prepared me for all aspects of life. I started out as a shy underachiever in the classroom. I was always a very sports-minded individual, placing winning as my top goal in life. KWC’s coaches and teaching staff helped me develop into a well-rounded individual, keeping my life goal in front of me – WINNING. Winning is important, because when you win in life, you have accomplished a goal.  

“Wesleyan’s liberal arts programs helped me work on ‘winning’ with the team concept in mind. Teachers, coaches and staff shaped that shy individual in the classroom into an outspoken, confident person ready for the real world. All the honors bestowed on me, as well as elected and appointed positions I have served in throughout the community, state and nationally, are a result of the resolute Wesleyan community and my family. Faculty members were always so personal with their students, continually encouraging and showing examples of success to help me accomplish the goal of winning. When life became difficult, they were readily available to help navigate those rough times with kind words of support, inspiration and examples of why I should always continue in pursuit of my goal of winning.” 

After Walter earned a bachelor of arts in elementary education in 1975, he continued his pursuit of higher education by obtaining a master of arts in education, a Rank 1 certification in education and finally an Educational Leadership certification (K-12), all from Western Kentucky University. 

Walter launched his teaching career at Goodloe Elementary School in 1975. In 1980, he transferred to Owensboro Middle School to teach sixth and seventh grade mathematics for the gifted and talented program. In 1992, Lee received the Cliff Hagan Boy’s Club Teacher of the Year Award. The following year, he was honored as Middle School Teacher of the Year for Owensboro Public Schools. Walter shared his athletic prowess, love of sports and continued his commitment to “winning” by becoming the Owensboro High School Lady Red Devils’ head basketball coach in 1982. 

After 17 years of teaching and coaching, Mr. Lee moved into school administration. In 1994, he became Owensboro Middle School’s administrative assistant, overseeing sixth grade academics, discipline and other administrative duties. During 1996-1997, he served as the school’s assistant principal. 

In 1997, he became a KWC instructor, where he taught a multicultural college course and served as the college’s women’s basketball assistant coach for seven years. In 1998, the Seven Hills Elementary School’s Site-Based Decision-Making Council selected Mr. Lee as their school principal. After serving the Seven Hills community for seven years, he transferred to Estes Elementary where he served three years before retiring from the Owensboro Public Schools System with 33 years of service. 

Mr. Lee has served in many capacities in civic, community and educational associations: as president of the Kentucky Association of Elementary School Principals’ Association (KAESP), as a board member for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, representative for Kentucky at the U.S. Department of Education’s Principals’ Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., and membership on the 2003 National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Nominating Committee, where he represented Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. He was also commissioner of the Kentucky Commission on Proprietary Education, a governor-appointed position. 

In addition to educational associations, Walter has also served in many positions within Prince Hall Freemasonry, the oldest and largest predominantly African American fraternity in the U.S., on many mayor-appointed boards and as a participant in Leadership Owensboro and Leadership Kentucky.  

His accolades include induction into the KWC Athletic Hall of Fame (tennis), selection as a Kentucky Colonel and receipt of two keys to the City of Owensboro.  

Walter is fully retired and resides in a beautiful resort community, Babcock Ranch, Fla., where he enjoys golf, friendships and life. Walter has one son, Chad Leon Lee, who lives in Bowling Green, Ky.  

“Looking back on the good ole days at Kentucky Wesleyan,” Walter reflects, “I think of all the wonderful times and personal contacts I made during my four years at our great school, and I wonder—where else could I have acquired all this knowledge of life and accomplished so many good things? The answer is simple – nowhere. Kentucky Wesleyan is a small, liberal arts school with each individual student in mind, and it is THE school that produces WINNERS! 

His life is full of wins!  

Written by Mary (Turner) McDole ’79

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