By: Jacob Stone  | 

Honors Program Celebrates Dr. Will Lee’s Retirement

Dr. Will Lee, longstanding Professor of English at Yeshiva College (YC), was recognized by the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program upon the occasion of his retirement on Dec. 3. At the event, YC faculty, members of the YU administration and former students celebrated Dr. Lee’s career and the impact that he has had at the college. Dr. Lee also spoke, reflecting on the honors he has received in his life and his passion for undergraduate pedagogy.

This semester is the first in which Dr. Lee is not teaching at YC. It is the end of an era that began when he came to YC as an Assistant Professor of English in 1983. Having lectured at the beginning of his career at the History and Literature program at Harvard, he approaches literature through cultural study, attempting to understand texts along with the societies that produced them. During his reflection, he noted that it was at Harvard that he decided to “master undergraduate teaching.” Several speakers lauded Dr. Lee’s focus on his pedagogy, mentioning his frequent development of new courses and propensity for co-teaching with faculty members from other departments.

Dr. Lee’s classes were renowned through YC for being both challenging and rewarding to the students who took them. President Ari Berman remarked, “It was just yesterday that I was walking through these halls and taking Professor Lee’s class. When I entered Dr. Lee’s Expository Writing class, I knew I would be working … And I did because he pushed me to do so.” Dr. Lee was chosen by students to receive the Senior Professor Award for distinguished teaching three times over the course of his career.

“The effort that Dr. Lee invested in understanding the world in which his students lived shone through in all his teaching,” said Yair Lichtman (YC ‘19), one of his students. “With that comprehension, he orchestrated classroom discussions that embodied YU’s ideal of Torah Umadda.”

In the past five years, courses Dr. Lee has offered covered topics including Renaissance literature, Victorian literature and culture, and the interpretation of poetry. “Informed equally by Jewish analytical paradigms and secular literary consciousness,” said Dr. David Lavinsky, Associate Professor of English, “his courses reflected the inclusive vision of the YC curriculum itself.”

Untraditionally, Dr. Lee was granted tenure at YC primarily not because of his published research but rather because of his commitment to teaching and public service. Dr. Lee was involved in the creation of the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program and served as its director for its initial years. He also worked on the Middle-States college accreditation process for YC, served on the original YC faculty board and played an instrumental role in the development of the college’s core curriculum.

Outside of YU, Dr. Lee has become involved with local history. He has worked on historic preservation in Englewood, NJ and his efforts on historic and cultural restoration won the New Jersey State Senate and General Assembly Citation. Currently, he sits on the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee of Englewood and helps edit a Koren English translation of Tanakh.

“I believe that through this event,” said Dr. Lee, “Undergraduate teaching and the significance of undergraduate teaching is being honored. The importance of having a faculty that is deeply invested in the university and has high morale is being honored as an idea, and I hope as the future unfolds a reality once again.”

Photo Caption: Dr. Will Lee 
Photo Credit: YU News