Lee to Speak at Winter Commencement 

Events, Graduation, News
Esmerelda Lee
Esmerelda Lee

Vice President of Century Park Associates, Lee alumna, and recent TICUA Hall of Fame inductee Esmerelda Lee will deliver the commencement address at Lee University’s winter ceremony, taking place on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 10:30 a.m. 

“We are delighted to have Esmerelda Lee as our commencement speaker,” said Lee President Dr. Mark L. Walker. “She is a model Lee alumnus of service, work ethic, and Christian character. We could not ask for anyone better to speak to our graduates.”

Lee graduated cum laude from Lee College in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences and pre-med emphasis. She went on to earn her master’s degree in public health administration from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) in 1999.  

Since 2019, she has served as VP and Chief Operations Officer for Century Park Associates, where she oversees the assisted and independent living for seniors in the Cleveland community, seeking to provide an “enriching lifestyle” for its seniors and residents. She has also served in various roles within the Cleveland community, including the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Rotary Club of Cleveland, the 2009 Steering Committee for United Way, the Governor’s Board, the Lee University Alumni Advisory Board, and the Cleveland High School Community Advisory Board. 

This fall, Lee was inducted into the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association’s (TICUA) Hall of Fame, which aims to honor distinguished alumni from TICUA institutions while highlighting their contributions to the state, nation, and world.   

The school’s winter commencement is one of three graduation ceremonies held each year on campus, the others being held in the spring and summer. The winter ceremony combines the music, which will be provided by Lee University Chorale, and decorations of the Christmas season with traditional commencement activities. 

There will be 181 undergraduate and 21 graduate students receiving degrees in the Saturday morning ceremony. Of the 21 graduate students, two are doctoral students. 

Prior to the Saturday commencement, a commissioning ceremony will be held Friday, Dec. 8, at 6:30 p.m. The commissioning service is a special occasion for students and their families to reflect on their time at Lee, and five student speakers will share brief stories about their experiences. During the event, each graduate is presented with a personalized Bible in a traditional walk across the stage.  

Both services will be held in the Conn Center. 

This December’s undergraduate speakers for the commissioning ceremony include Jeremiah Burkley, a history education major with a minor in music; Allie Grace Kinard, a psychology major with a Christian ministry minor; Eamon McLaughlin, a business administration major; and Aime Ndiaye, a theological and professional studies major with minors in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and business administration. Representing the graduate students is speaker Adam Dodson, earning his degree in ministry studies. Marielle Alexander, a TESOL and music double major with a minor in psychology, will perform during the commissioning ceremony.  

In addition to the commissioning ceremony on Friday, the hooding ceremony for recipients of master’s degrees, education specialist degrees, and doctoral degrees will be held at 4:30 p.m. in the Lee Chapel. 

Following the commissioning ceremony, there will be a reception on Friday for all in attendance to celebrate the graduates. 

The hooding, commissioning, and commencement ceremonies are ticketed events. 

For those wishing to view any of the events, live streaming will be available at

For more information about commencement exercises, contact the Academic Events Office at [email protected], (423) 614-8117, or visit academics/graduation-info/.    

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