posted on Nov. 21: President emeritus Alvin Lee receives first Library Advocate award


[img_inline align=”right” src=”” caption=”A. Lee (left) receives award from G. Hill”]In 1960, Alvin A. Lee, then a brand new assistant professor, had a dream.

The brash young professor wanted to establish and build a research library at McMaster. With this in mind, he visited University librarian Marget Meikleham and left her office with a fund to begin a collection in his specialty areas of Old and Middle English. This was the beginning of Lee's 41-year relationship with the Library.

On Nov. 8, Lee's numerous contributions to the development of the Library and his untiring support were recognized when he was presented with the first Library Advocate Award.

In his remarks, University librarian Graham R. Hill said, “There is no doubt that a vital university library is the product of the intense interest and vigorous advocacy by the faculty that it serves…In his role as president and vice-chancellor from 1980 to 1990 and again as co-chair of the community campaign in the recent Changing Tomorrow Today campaign, Alvin Lee has constantly demonstrated his belief in the priority of the Library, and the continuing need for its growth and development.”

Accepting the award, Lee recalled that in 1962, having heard from the head of the English department, Roy Wiles, that the senior administration wanted arts departments like English to establish doctoral programs, he and another equally-brash colleague went off to see the then dean of graduate studies, physicist Harry Duckworth.

Their purpose was to point out that building a research library would require significant new funds. Asked what he thought was needed, Lee replied that a million dollars a year for the next 10 years would be a realistic start. Within a few months the University was providing this money in the budget.

Lee also recalled with pleasure the opportunity, during the Centennial Campaign in the late 1980s, to play the leading role in raising the $21-million of public and private money to expand and renovate Mills Memorial Library.

To commemorate his award, the Library will inscribe two books that Lee has selected: The Encyclopaedia of Canadian Literature  which, when it is published next year, will be the most complete and up-to-date reference work on Canadian literature ever published  and The Diaries of Northrop Frye, 1942-1955, Volume 8 of The Collected Works of Northrop Frye.

Now retired from the University, Lee continues the demanding leadership of the editorial project to publish The Collected Works of Northrop Frye. He has also given of his time, energy and knowledge to work with the Library to raise funds for the Library of the Future Endowment Fund in the belief that the McMaster community must support the continued excellence of its library collections in this time of severe economic stress.