Dr. Mark L. Walker, along with his wife Udella, accepted the challenge to lead Lee in the spring of 2020. Dr. Walker assumed the role of President at Lee on August 1, 2020, carrying with him into the role a wealth of executive leadership experience, primarily in a ministerial setting. Also no stranger to the academy, he completed degrees at Georgia State University and Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and served as adjunct faculty at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and for seven years as a member of Lee’s Board of Directors.

He has completed the Executive Leadership Institute program hosted by the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association and is a participant in the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents, a one-year seminar drawing several dozen college and university presidents from around the world, held by Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Beginning in 2017, he also served Lee’s School of Religion in simultaneous professorial and administrative roles as Professor of Pastoral Studies and Chair of the Department of Christian Ministries and on the university cabinet as Vice President for Ministerial Relations. This period enriched his already thorough knowledge of Lee’s unique culture and history. He says, “It is not lost on me the legacy of responsibility I carry serving as the seventeenth president of a 102-year old institution. At times, it feels quite daunting.”

Walker says of his approach to the position, “There are three sets of people that help me maintain a proper perspective: First, Udella, and our family keep me centered. Second, at Lee we have an amazing team of committed and talented people carrying the load with me. I need not walk alone. Third, and most important, the same 'Unseen Guest' is with me that empowered Nora Chambers to overcome her fear as she taught Lee’s first class on January 1, 1918. God has been Lee’s foundation for over a century, and I intend to keep Him our foundation. On Him, I place my trust.”

With his experience, Dr. Walker brings a perspective to the Presidency that belies his strengths, leading with a team mentality, strategic planning, and developing leaders. “I am a team leader,” he explains. “I believe in team. I believe in getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats on the bus and working together with them to drive the bus where it needs to go.

“Strategic planning is also an important leadership practice to me. If you are familiar with the movie, ‘The A-Team,’ one of its main characters is Hannibal Smith who is the leader of the team. His favorite line when they successfully complete a mission is, ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’ That’s me.

“I also have a real burden for leadership development. I would love to see Lee become even more intentional, perhaps even a hub, for developing leaders at all levels. As the world is becoming more and more complex, the need for effective, servant, and Christ-centered leaders is greater than ever before. Why can’t Lee be more center stage in developing next generational leaders that lead world change?"

Walker’s term as President follows a long successful term in the post by Dr. Paul Conn, who transitioned into the role of Chancellor with Walker’s appointment. The transition also coincided with the global pandemic of COVID-19, so Walker entered into a challenging period for Lee with a determination to lead boldly in crisis without losing sight of the larger context of the institution’s thriving success and dynamic potential. At the time he said, “My immediate plan is to work hard at keeping our focus on our mission while continuing to navigate the pandemic crisis. We have to be careful that the crisis does not become our mission. Chancellor Conn has done an excellent job leading us in this manner, and we must maintain that course.”

"My plan is also to hit the ground listening and learning,” he added, “hearing the hearts of our students, faculty and staff; listening to the voices of our alumni and surrounding community; all to help me better learn who we are and where we need to go next.”

The Walkers have developed a long and close relationship with the university’s denominational affiliate, Church of God, both by serving as Senior Pastor of Mount Paran, North, one of the global denomination’s most prominent congregations, located in the Greater Atlanta area, and by serving on several national and international leadership bodies for the denomination and some of its ministries.

Of that aspect of his career, Walker says this, “In many respects, a pastor carries out the functions of an organizational leader like casting vision, cultivating culture, creating systems, raising and managing a budget, and working with governing boards. I believe these will serve me well as president. Perhaps most of all, I feel confident that my ministerial experience will aid me in caring for and developing people. Pastors serve to help people discover and live out their faith. It is all about leading people in faith integration, which is the heart of the Lee mission – preparing our students to live responsible Christian lives in a complex world.”

Walker engages fully in his work with an optimism and a team spirit that is both motivating and infectious. In a charge to employees of Lee he talks about the synergy that exists on the Lee campus.

“Members of a rowing team share an experience together that they call the moment of ‘swing,’” he says. “Swing is described as an ideal state of harmony when all the oars are in the water working in near perfect synchronization. It generates the fastest amount of speed and creates the best possibility of success. Swing is the result of tremendous teamwork.

“While we at Lee University are proud to be a liberal arts teaching institution, we believe we have an even greater call – to serve as a Christ-centered transforming community. We do more than deliver the knowledge of our individual disciplines; we work together to engage our students in the transformational journey of integrating faith, values and vocation.

“I am excited to team with you as we passionately join together to serve our students that they might go out and change the world. It is our mission! It is the Lee Experience! It is our moment of swing!”