Hamilton College Dean of Faculty Suzanne Keen announced the death of Professor of History Emeritus Edwin B. Lee, Jr. in an email to the Hamilton community on June 21.
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,
Hamilton recently received word that Professor of History Emeritus Edwin B. Lee, Jr. died Friday, June 14, at the age of 94.
A native of North Carolina, Professor Lee received his bachelor’s degree in 1945 from Duke University, where he participated in the Navy ROTC program. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and the Korean conflict, retiring in 1955 as a lieutenant. In 1958, two years before earning his Ph.D. from Columbia University, he joined the Hamilton faculty as an instructor and served the College for 29 years until his retirement in 1987. At the time of his retirement, he was the Marjorie and Robert W. McEwen Professor of History.
Friends and former students established the Edwin B. Lee Lecture Fund in 1990 to honor Lee, who is credited with initiating the teaching of courses in East Asian history at Hamilton. He was widely recognized as a devoted teacher, advisor, and mentor, and an authority on modern East Asia and especially Japanese history. Stewart Herman ’70, described his former teacher in an Alumni Review article as “Tall, angular, and possessed of a deceptively genteel Southern manner,” a man who “demanded a high quality of analytical thinking.” A faculty colleague cited Lee’s “institutional and personal loyalty” and “active concern for students, colleagues and friends.” He was, according to this colleague, “a man who has taken the residents of this Hill community as his family and whose acts of simple charity witness his loyalty and humanity.”
Professor Lee served on every major faculty committee, published regularly, received a Fulbright grant to conduct research at Tokyo University, and was named a Rockefeller Fellow by the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, among other honors, but his first love was teaching.
“Hamilton and I were made for each other,” he said. “I am not a compulsive scholar. My joy was teaching, and Hamilton emphasizes teaching.”