A memorial service is planned for later this month for Robert E. "Buzz" Lee, who was president of Georgia College during desegregation and when the previously all-women school began accepting men.
Lee died Monday in Covington, Kentucky, his hometown. He was 96.
Georgia College's current president, Steve Dorman, announced the death in a letter to staff posted on the school's website.
"I am thankful for the legacy Dr. Lee left for Georgia College and hope you all will keep this family in your thoughts during this time," Dorman wrote in the letter.
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According to Lee's biography on the college's website, he was president from 1956 until 1967 and was just 36 when he took the job.
The school underwent three name changes while Lee was there. It was Georgia State College for Women, then became The Woman's College of Georgia and finally, Georgia College at Milledgeville.
Bob Wilson, the college's historian, said when Lee came to the school there already was a lot of talk about going coed in order to boost sagging enrollment.
"He was kind of on board with that until he came here and settled in," Wilson said. "Then he became a convert to the idea of continuing with the single-sex education. He thought that was a good thing for the young women."
In 1964, the school accepted its first black student. The next year 11 more young black women entered the school.
"That all happened essentially with no fuss," Wilson said.
In 1958 the school began offering a Master of Education degree, which was the school's first graduate program. Despite Lee's opposition, in 1967 the Board of Regents voted to let men attend in an effort to boost lackluster enrollment. Lee resigned six months later, which Wilson said was a direct result of the coed decision.
Wilson also noted that Lee secured funding for the restoration of the Old Governor's Mansion. The building was in such bad shape, Wilson said, that had it not been for Lee's efforts, the structure might have been lost.
Lee graduated from Washington & Lee University, then earned a Master of Mathematics degree at Vanderbilt University before serving four years in the Navy. He then taught math at the University of Florida, where he earned a doctorate. He was acting dean at Berry College in Rome when he accepted the job in Milledgeville.
Lee's memorial service will be held March 19 at 3 p.m. in the St. Giles Chapel at Deerfield, 1617 Hendersonville Road South in Asheville, North Carolina.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.