Dr. Jerry C. Lee
Chancellor Emeritus, National University System
President Emeritus, National University
Dr. Jerry C. Lee, who served as Chancellor of the National University System from 2001 to 2013 and who previously served as President of National University from 1989 to 2007, officially retired as Chancellor of the National University System effective September 15, 2013.
As Chancellor, Dr. Lee guided the strategic direction of the affiliates of the National University System, including National University; John F. Kennedy University; City University of Seattle; National University International; the Division of Pre-College Programs, consisting of National University Academy and National University Virtual High School; Spectrum Pacific Learning; and WestMed College.
Dr. Lee also established and oversaw the Center for Integrative Health, the National University System Institute for Policy Research, National University Golf Academy, and the Center for Performance Psychology.
In his role as Chancellor, Dr. Lee presided over the National University System Annual Assembly Luncheon each fall, setting the tone and direction for the University System Community for the coming year. Despite difficult economic times, during his address at each of the past four assemblies Dr. Lee has renewed his vow that no member of the System Community would lose a job or see a reduction in pay or benefits as a result of the economic downturn.
Dr. Lee’s commitment to improving the lives of the men and women on the National University System and the communities it serves has taken many forms over the years, from the creation of the Center for Integrative Health, to numerous employee wellness initiatives, and to the programs available through the National University School of Health and Human Services. The most recent example of that commitment by Dr. Lee was the launch of Integrative Health Review, a free open-access online resource dedicated to gathering and disseminating the latest knowledge related to healthcare.
From 1989 through July 2007, Dr. Lee spent 18 years as President of National University, championing its profound and measurable transformation. Since his arrival, Dr. Lee has challenged faculty and staff to remain attentive to providing a superior level of education to nontraditional learners while remaining true to National University’s core values of quality, access, relevance, accelerated pace, value, and community.
As a testament to Dr. Lee’s leadership, the National University Faculty Senate has named its highest honor for service to the University the Jerry C. Lee Faculty Senate Award for Outstanding Achievement.
By encouraging others to bring their enthusiasm to the implementation of his ambitious vision, Dr. Lee has guided National University through change energized by innovation and compassion, ensuring the endurance of an institution dedicated to providing opportunities for quality higher learning to persons for whom no other feasible alternative is available.
Under his leadership, National University became the second-largest private, nonprofit institution of higher education in California. National University has 30,000 students and more than 130,000 alumni.
Financial stability also is a hallmark of Dr. Lee’s tenure with the National University System. Since 2002, National University’s assets have risen from $162 million to more than $638 million. National University’s current operating budget is more than $193 million; the University’s real estate holdings are valued at $105.9 million; and National has an unrestricted net asset value of $595 million with virtually no debt. Combined with National University, the affiliates of the National University System have an estimated fair-market value of as much as $1 billion.
While Dr. Lee’s vision has resulted in impressive growth, he has also served as careful guardian of National University's commitment to provide its students the intimate classroom environment of a small, private university. As part of its commitment to accessibility, National University has remained one of education's most affordable, with undergraduate tuition rates that are approximately 60 percent lower than the average private, nonprofit four-year institution.
Dr. Lee's investment in infrastructure has, according to one industry expert, “raised the bar for classroom technology and integration.” National University is a leader in Web-based learning, offering more than 70 degree and credential programs and delivering more than 4,600 courses online each year. The library boasts more than 433,727 resources, one of the largest collections of any university in the United States.
A distinction of President Lee’s tenure at National University has been his dedication to the core value of access to quality education for under-served learners. National University is consistently ranked in the Top 10 schools in the United States in number of graduate degrees awarded to minority students.
Since Dr. Lee’s arrival at National University, the number of minority students each year has risen from 16.8 percent in 1989 to 46 percent in 2011. National University now provides more master’s degrees in all disciplines to African Americans and Hispanics than any other college or university in California, and ranks first in the state in granting master’s degrees in education to all minorities. National University also ranks among the nation’s Top 10 universities in awarding master's degrees to women. For these and other accomplishments, Dr. Lee was honored with a 2004 Visionary Award in the category of diversity by LEAD San Diego, Inc., an organization that promotes and fosters community leadership.
Dr. Lee’s vision for National University has steadfastly maintained a mandate for mutual respect, encouragement, challenge, and support within its classroom walls and an institutional directive to “give back” to the communities it serves.
Most recently, Dr. Lee’s mandate has resulted in the National University System and its affiliates working to repay the military’s defense of our country by helping active duty military members and veterans build their future through accessible and affordable higher education opportunities. Recognizing the issue of homeless combat veterans to be of the utmost importance and critical urgency, Chancellor Lee called for the establishment of the National University Center for Veterans Support, which encompasses the National University Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, and the National University System Homeless Combat Veteran’s Network. As a result, the System is working in partnership with a number of organizations serving veterans, including Veterans Village of San Diego; St. Vincent de Paul Village; and Operation Game On!, an organization that provides golf rehabilitation programs for returning troops who have suffered traumatic experiences in combat.
In 2011, National University established the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success. Located at the University’s Spectrum Business Park Campus in San Diego, a national hub for military personnel, the Center is a centralized point for the coordination of services for military veterans.
In 1996, as an element of National University’s 25th anniversary celebration, Chancellor Lee awarded 25 scholarships to women who had been victims of domestic abuse. In subsequent years, he has renewed National University’s support of survivors of domestic violence through initiatives including the awarding of grants to the San Diego YWCA Domestic Violence Hotline, and to Project Next Step, a program initiated in cooperation with the El Cajon County Court System and the San Diego Volunteer Lawyers Association to provide counsel to women who have legal issues related to domestic violence. In 2005, he was the first recipient of the Angel Award from WomenTogether, a committee of volunteers who raise funds for agencies that assist battered women and their children in San Diego.
This commitment has garnered a Guardian Angel Award from the San Diego Council on Domestic Violence, a Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Silver Medal for Community Relations, the Edward L. Bernays Award, and a certificate of appreciation from the San Diego Superior Courts for its efforts to assist victims of domestic violence.
In 2003, Chancellor Lee announced a reduced tuition rate of 50 percent for every teacher in California laid off due to budget cuts, and in September 2005, he announced that National will offer free tuition to displaced students in the Gulf States who wish to attend National University Virtual High School. National University leads higher education in support of community initiatives, committing almost 1.5 percent of its operating budget to do so.
Chancellor Lee’s dedication to higher education includes terms on the President’s Commission of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Board of Directors of the American Association of University Administrators, and the American Council on Education’s Commission on Women in Higher Education.
His record of service also includes membership on the Board of Directors of St. Vincent de Paul Ministries, the Board of Directors of the San Diego Economic Development Corporation, the Board of Directors of the John Brockington Foundation, and the Board of Directors of the Children’s School in La Jolla, California.
Other recognition received by Dr. Lee includes: Alpha Sigma Pi “Man of the Year”; the Advancement of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom Award from the United National Association of the United States; the “One-of-a-Kind” Award from People to People; a “Males as Positive Forces” Award from the Chula Vista Community Collaborative; and 2006 Honorary Chair for the Council on Literacy. In 2005, he was named to the John Brockington Foundation’s “Circle of Honor.”
He has been named Sertoma “Man of the Year” and one of San Diego Magazine’s “50 People to Watch.” Dr. Lee also received the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Distinguished Alumni Award, the West Virginia Wesleyan Distinguished Alumni Award, the American Association of University Administrators Eileen Tosney Award, the American Athletic Association of the Deaf Distinguished Service Award, the San Diego Leadership Alliance Outstanding Leadership Award, the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development Presidential Award for Exemplary Service, and has been named to the International Educator’s Hall of Fame.
He has been presented with an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Gallaudet University and a National University Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. In 1997, Dr. Lee was knighted by the Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
Dr. Lee earned a bachelor’s from Wesleyan University and a master’s and doctorate from Virginia Tech. He served in the United States Army from 1966 to 1972.
Dr. Lee lives in Fairbanks Ranch with his wife, Joan, and their bulldog companions Mugs and Molly.