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By inspiring others and preserving Appalachia’s “sacred space,” Lee earns University honor

A moment at Carson-Newman’s Appalachian Cultural Center in 2014 brings three of the center’s current and past directors together. Pictured left to right are Dr. Jennifer Hall, the center’s current director; Dr. Ernest Lee this year’s Outstanding Service to Appalachia Award recipient and the center’s director, 2002-2013; and Jeff Daniel Marion director, 1992-2002.

(March 7, 2016) – Carson-Newman University has announced Dr. Ernest Lee as the 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Educational Service to Appalachia Award. Sponsored by the University’s Appalachian Cultural Center, the award will be presented on Tuesday, March 15.

Throughout his career, Dr. Lee worked tirelessly to celebrate and to promote Appalachia, its arts, culture, and people,” said Dr. Jennifer Hall, director of the Appalachian Cultural Center. “He inspired generations of students to appreciate and preserve Appalachia’s “sacred space”–to love its mountains, hills, and valleys–its voices, cultures, and literature–and to claim them proudly as part of themselves.”

Lee joined Carson-Newman’s faculty in 1988, having been on faculty at Wingate University in North Carolina. While at Carson-Newman he served in such roles as director of composition and acting chair of the English Department before retiring in 2013 as professor of English and director of the University’s Appalachian Cultural Center.

As director of the Center for over a decade, Lee is credited for his dedicated work in promoting the voices, arts and culture of the Appalachian region. Past and current members of the Appalachian Cultural Center Committee continue to champion the countless number of speakers, poets, creatives, advocates, and artists Lee brought to campus.

His scholarly work further testifies to his commitment to Appalachia and its people. From “Always at Home Here to Discovering Place” to “Being of These Hills,” Lee collected and preserved Appalachian voices that might otherwise have been forgotten, hidden, or ignored.

His approach to teaching at Carson-Newman earned him such recognitions as the Alpha Lambda Delta Freshman Professor of the Year in 2006 and the University’s prestigious Distinguished Faculty Award in 2007.

“My time with Dr. Lee as an undergraduate English major proved to be some of the most fruitful, engaging moments of learning I’ve ever experienced,” said Hannah Houser, a 2012 Carson-Newman alumna. “Dr. Lee helped literature come alive for me in a way that I’m still reveling in today. I’m honored to not only call him a mentor and teacher — but now a friend, too.”

Lee earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees from Western Carolina University. He received his doctorate from the University of Tennessee.

Lee and his wife June live in Fancy Gap, Virginia.

For 28 years, Carson-Newman’s Award for Outstanding Educational Service to Appalachia has recognized outstanding individuals for their contributions to the region. Such past honorees have included Rev. Lawrence and Martha Baldridge, Jim Claborn, John Rice Irwin, Bill Landry, Jeff Daniel Marion, Lee Smith, James Still and Wilma Dykeman Stokely.

The 7 p.m. event will be held at the Appalachian Cultural Center on campus. It is free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The Appalachian Cultural Center is located on Russell Avenue in Jefferson City.

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