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Lee Honors College expansion, renovations under way

by Cheryl Roland

June 27, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of groundbreaking ceremony at WMU's Lee Honors College.
Andreadis, Munn-Wood and Zhang
KALAMAZOO--Students as well as a key donor teamed up with University officials June 9 to break ground for a $1.7 million addition to the Lee Honors College Building.

The privately funded project, which is scheduled to take one year, will add 4,000 square feet to the 8,400-square-foot structure and include facility upgrades. When completed for fall 2012, the building will have twice as many classrooms as it does now, a small library, and a seasonal outdoor classroom with amphitheatre-style seating as well as a renovated student lounge and state-of-the-art instructional technology throughout.

The honors college was constructed in 1990 with $1.3 million in private funding. It is named in honor of Carl and Winifred Lee, who donated $500,000 toward its initial construction and $1.1 million for the new addition and renovation project.

Carl E Lee, former president, general manager and owner of Fetzer Broadcasting Service of Kalamazoo, took part in the groundbreaking ceremony. Also participating were WMU Trustee Kenneth V. Miller, WMU President John M. Dunn, honors college Dean Nicholas Andreadis, honors college member Charlotte Munn-Wood and Alex Zhang, an area student who participates in the University's Academically Talented Youth Program.

In brief remarks to those attending the event, Lee recounted how then-President Diether H. Haenicke had approached the Lees in the late 1980s, telling them he had a vision for building a permanent home for the University's honors college. The Lees agreed with the need and recognized the potential to be realized.

"We had a vision, too," Lee said. "It was that this honors college would be the best in the nation. I think we're at that point, today."

WMU's Lee Honors College is one of the oldest and most highly regarded collegiate honors programs in the nation. The college serves as academic home to more than 1,400 top students from around the nation who are enrolled in disciplines across campus. For incoming freshmen, admission to the Lee Honors College is by invitation only. High school students who are accepted to WMU receive an invitation to join the honors college if they have an ACT composite score of at least 26 and a GPA of 3.6. The credentials of a typical class of honors college freshmen equal or surpass the credentials of students at the most elite private colleges in the state and nation.

"Enrollment growth, phenomenal growth, is what's driving this project," notes Dean Andreadis, who points out that 1,000 students were members of the college in fall 2008 and 1,400 are expected to be enrolled this fall. "Last year, we had our largest ever enrollment in the college, and we are on target this year to surpass that number for this fall. In the past three years, the college's enrollment has grown by 40 percent."

In addition to entering freshmen, the college accepts top transfer students and also enrolls high-performing WMU students who may not have joined the honors college as freshmen.

"We're seeing growth in the number of qualified students in disciplines campuswide," Andreadis says. "Right now, our biomedical science students have the largest representation in the college, but engineering is the fastest-growing discipline to be represented."

Andreadis says WMU's outreach over the past few years has emphasized quality indicators like the University's Carnegie classification as a research university and its role as the site of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.

"Students and families are realizing that WMU offers a great option," he says.