Honors College History

  • Head and shoulders of Carl and Winifred Lee standing in front of the Lee Honors College building.
  • Nick Andreadis, Carl Lee, and John Dunn standing at a podium at the honors college renovation groundbreaking.
  • Carl Lee with his daughter, son in law, and grandchildren standing in the lounge at the reopening of the honors college.
  • Head and shoulders studio portrait of Winifred and Carl Lee.

Carl and Winifred lee

In 1961, the faculty of this University, led by political science professor, Dr. Samuel Clark, made the case to then President, James Miller, that a curriculum that inspired and challenged “the creative and enterprising student in her/his pursuit of academic excellence” was needed at WMU. Soon thereafter, an honors college was formed at WMU and its first graduating class consisted of 6 students.

By the 1980s, honors education was thriving at WMU in two essential respects: engaged faculty and hundreds of talented students and alumni. But it took three very important people to elevate the college to even greater heights: Diether Haenicke, President of WMU at that time, and Carl and Winifred Lee.  As Mr. Lee told the story, President Haenicke approached him and Winnie to make the request for the necessary funding to build a facility equal - in capacity and design - to the needs of our wonderful students. They responded with a generous gift that made the dream a reality.  In October 1990, in gratitude for and in honor of their contribution, the college and the building was dedicated as the Carl and Winifred Lee Honors College.

The story does not end there. In the late 2000s, the college embarked on a vigorous recruitment initiative. It was highly successful, and enrollment climbed well beyond 1,000 students very quickly. Suddenly, more classroom space and more sophisticated educational technology was necessary to meet their needs and that of our faculty. The dean of the college, Dr. Nicholas Andreadis, had lunch with Mr. and Mrs. Lee and shared with them the success story of the honors college and the wonderful careers in public and private service of our alumni. After careful consideration, Mr. and Mrs. Lee were willing and ready to once again provide a generous gift. Carl stated that he wanted WMU to design and build the “best honors college in America.”

Carl Lee followed carefully the designs the architects proposed, and once approved June 9, 2011 was set for the groundbreaking. The expanded and renovated facility hosted a grand opening on September 28, 2012 that was titled appropriately, Excellence Renewed.  Carl, along with his daughter Cheri and her husband Jeff Weedman, as well as their children, Carl and Tatiana, were present for the formal celebration. The facility, newly expanded by 4,000 square feet in addition to a renovation of much of the original 8,400 square feet, doubled the original number of classrooms and provided state of the art technology which enabled our students and faculty access to people and information from around the world. Mr. Lee expressed his happiness that we had fulfilled his wish for a state of the art facility to support honors education. Since then, the building has won two awards from independent agencies for its design and energy efficiency, including a LEED Silver certification.

Today nearly 1,800 students call the Lee Honors College their intellectual and social home. We remember both Carl and Winifred Lee with fondness and deep appreciation for their vision, kindness and generosity.

Honorary alumni

Carl E. Lee
November 7, 1918 - February 22, 2015

Carl E. Lee was born in Reading, Michigan, a son of the late Berten "Bert" Henry and Mary (Nash) Lee. He attended the Michigan Academy of Radio Service and spent 60 years in the radio and broadcasting industry. In the late 1930s, Carl met E. Winifred "Winnie" Fulton and on October 12, 1940 they were married. Carl and Winnie were members of Kalamazoo’s First Presbyterian Church. In addition to being President and CEO of Fetzer Broadcasting Company, Carl headed up six other CBS affiliates across the country, and served on the board of directors for CBS Affiliates, BMI, First National Bank Corporation, Michigan Association of Broadcasters, WMU Foundation, Bronson Hospital Foundation, Broadcast Pioneers and the Detroit Tigers. Carl and Winnie enjoyed travelling while working on Carl's businesses, and they enjoyed spending their winters in Naples, FL and summers in Kalamazoo. They were members of the Kalamazoo Country Club, The Park Club and Bear's Paw Country Club in Naples. Carl also enjoyed leading his business groups on fishing trips for more than 50 years. Carl was a 32nd degree Mason and was also a member of the Lion's Club.

E. Winifred “Winnie” Lee
November 1, 1919 - October 23, 2012

E. Winifred "Winnie" Lee, was born Saturday, November 1, 1919, in Huntington County, Indiana, a daughter of William Elsworth and Mary Rebecca (Beaver) Fulton. After graduating from high school, Winnie attended Maher's Business School and worked for the Shakespeare Company in the accounting department. In the late 1930s she met Carl Lee and on October 12, 1940, they were united in marriage. Winnie was a member of First Presbyterian Church where she was once active in the John Dunning Guild. She also was involved with the Women's Symphony Association. Winnie and Carl are Honorary Alumni of Western Michigan University and the benefactors of the Carl and Winifred Lee Honors College of Western Michigan University.