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Irving J. Lee (1909-1955) as remembered by Thomas G. Miller School of Commerce, Northwestern University - General Semantics Bulletin, Numbers 18 & 19, 1955

With the death of Professor Irving J. Lee, all who came under his influence will decide what he meant to them. Evaluations of his scholarship, his intellectual gifts, and his speaking and writing skills will, in due time, receive systematic attention. As an undergraduate who heard Lee lecture and who remained to spend four years under his direction in graduate study, I wish to suggest a facet of his complex nature that will continue to linger long in my recollections.


I remember Dr. Lee not so much as a scholar, a thinker, a researcher, or a pioneer in communications, but rather as a teacher peculiarly endowed with a charismatic personality -- a teacher whose voice, gestures, movements, and commanding presence pulled students close to him.


This quality of which I speak is very elusive. If I attempted to define it, I would call it a contagious enthusiasm, a ceaseless flow of warmth and spontaniety, and a capacity to convey feelings and ideas so directly that there seemed to be no barriers between him and his students. The term 'charismatic' is a lame attempt to describe the personal magnetism by which he heid the complete attention of his listeners and inspired the admiration of his students.


This quality -- this intrinsic gift -- never deserted him in the classroom. It brought students by the hundreds to his beginning course, inconveniently scheduled by Dr. Lee at two-thirty in the afternoon. Graduate students, professional colleagues, and men of affairs -- all were influenced by his charism. From it he drew his limitless vitality and his abundant strength; by it he made learning an adventure for those who heard him. This charismatic quality brought him to the classroom less than three weeks before the end. It is the raw material from which legends spring.

March 4, 2023 | Permalink


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