Five Minutes with Lucy Lee


Lucy Lee, professor of Spanish and chair of the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, has been an instructor at Truman for nearly 30 years. Counting the time she spent “play teaching” as a child in her rural Georgia home, Lee has been an educator most of her life. She earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Spanish and French from Wesleyan College, followed by a master’s and Ph.D. in Spanish language and literature from the University of Kentucky. In addition to teaching all levels of language classes, she also teaches courses in literature, film and the culture of Spain.

What led you to teaching?
I never imagined doing anything else. As I look back, I remember being heavily influenced as a preschooler by my favorite morning television show, “Romper Room,” which was essentially a kindergarten class. I loved the teacher, Miss Nancy, and wanted to be exactly like her. For years, I lined up my dolls and taught them in my own classroom. I also organized my storybooks according to my version of the Dewey Decimal system. When I was finally able to attend school, I loved every minute of it, especially reading about people and places far away from my corner of the world in southeast Georgia. That has never changed. My goal was to be an eternal student and share with others my love of learning.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I grew up on a farm—the old-fashioned kind. I picked cotton, “strung” tobacco (tied leaves on sticks that were then hung in tall barns and cooked), socialized at cane grindings, where cane juice boiled in huge vats heated by a wood fire until it turned into syrup, and looked forward to hearing the honk of the bookmobile as it headed down the dirt road toward our house on those special Saturdays. It is a way of life that no longer exists, but made me who I am today.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I absolutely love to explore historic homes and ruins of all kinds. Running a close second and third are enjoying dance as a spectator and/or participant and visiting museums of any kind so thoroughly that friends and family know better than to go with me.

If you weren’t teaching, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be a tour guide or a docent for the historical society of Charleston, S.C., or Savannah, Ga.

You have a day off, and you’re caught up on grading…what do you do with your free day?
I would go to Zumba, have lunch with an old friend, resume that novel I’ve had to put down several times to grade compositions, and then fall asleep watching the episodes of “Dancing with the Stars” or “Downton Abbey” recorded while I was grading compositions.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
In my current position as department chair, the most rewarding aspect of my job is working to create new opportunities for our majors and minors. I also very much enjoy meeting with prospective students and parents to share all that Truman and CML have to offer. I find those kinds of interactions very exciting and inspiring. They remind me of why I’m here.

What is your best advice to your students?
Get all you can while you’re here. You will never be able to do this again, in this way.

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