The Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA) honored Oakton Community College President Margaret B. Lee, Ph.D., with its 2013 Advocacy Award at a special banquet held June 7 in Chicago. The tribute, first bestowed in 2006, is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in supporting the needs of students and the Illinois community college system.
According to ICCTA officials, Lee's award was a result of her commitment to educational opportunities. Under her leadership, Oakton has partnered with Northern Illinois University to offer a bachelor's degree for first responders, offered tuition waivers for recently unemployed workers, and created the University of Illinois-Oakton Pathway to the Bachelor's Degree. Lee also donated her 2011 pay raise to create a Student Relief Fund.
"In addition to her ICCTA activities this year, Dr. Lee also served as chair of the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents," said ICCTA Director of Communication Kim Villanueva. "She has been a steadying influence during sometimes turbulent negotiations on pension reform and has sought to bring together adjunct faculty and college presidents to discuss health care issues surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act."
Lee, who was named as one of the "2012 Most Powerful and Influential Women of Illinois" by the National Diversity Council, said her tribute from the ICCTA was a collaborative effort.
"I'm truly humbled to receive this award," she said. "My goal is to lead with compassion and care. I always try to inspire my community colleagues to 'do good work,' but none of us can do it alone. All of us must commit to carrying out our shared mission, as well as the promises we make. Whatever our roles or title, we share in work that changes lives."
Oakton's campuses in Des Plaines and Skokie provide a wide range of support for students including: Two Learning Centers that provide tutoring; academic advising and counseling; a Career Services Office; services for students with disabilities; and TRiO, a special program for first-generation and low-income students.
"President Lee's dedication to education, the community college system, and unwavering advocacy for both traditional and nontraditional students makes her a most deserving recipient," said Oakton Board of Trustee Ann Tennes. "She continually seeks partnerships and innovative programming to meet the rapidly changing educational needs of the community and her advocacy has enhanced the quality of life for countless students and their families. Her leadership at Oakton, in the community, and in the community college system are unparalleled."
Lee, also a professor of English, became Oakton's third president in 1995. From 1985 to 1995, she served as the vice president for academic affairs at the college. The Wilmette resident holds a doctorate and master of arts degrees in English language and literature from the University of Chicago, where she was a Ford Foundation Fellow in the Humanities and a Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Scholar in Women's Studies.
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