Few individuals have had as much personal, consistent investment in the lives of Lee students and employees as Dr. Charles Paul Conn.

Dr. Conn assumed the new role of President and Chancellor on May 5, 2024, after an inspiring tenure as President that lasted exactly 34 years and a subsequent term of nearly four years as Chancellor. Dr. Conn, along with his wife Darlia McLuhan Conn, led the university through a transformative period in the 80’s and 90’s, maintaining Lee’s institutional momentum into the new millennium and beyond the school’s 2018 centennial. At the point of his transition to Chancellor, Conn was the longest currently-serving university president in Tennessee, and his length of service is among the 70 longest tenures by a college president in U.S. history.

After graduating from Lee College in 1967, Conn earned a PhD at Emory University and returned to Lee as a psychology instructor in 1971. Within the next 15 years, Conn received the school's top award for "Excellence in Teaching,” served two post-doctoral appointments at Harvard University, chaired the Department of Behavioral Sciences, served as Vice President of Institutional Advancement, and authored or co-authored more than 20 books about various public, business, and ministry leaders. Four of these books reached the New York Times bestseller list, and three were adapted for television.

Dr. Conn's leadership at Lee was characterized by revolutionary expansion alongside a determination to remain true to its original core values. He won numerous awards during his tenure and served on the governing boards of many national and regional higher education organizations, including the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Council for Independent Colleges. In that time, the school grew explosively in size, quality, reputation, and reach, with enrollment and physical campus size increasing fivefold, 30 building projects, a tenfold increase in operating budget, and status as one of Cleveland, Tennessee’s largest employers.

Dr. Conn also oversaw dramatic expansion of curriculum at Lee, quadrupling the number of undergraduate degree programs offered, launching Lee’s first master and doctoral level programs, and initiating a host of initiatives such as global perspectives and service learning, each now an integral part of the Lee experience.

Amidst such change, the values of Christ-centered excellence and a focus on students remained, as seen by the close relationship Lee has with its sponsoring denomination, the success of graduates in myriad fields of expertise, and Conn’s own reputation with students on campus for openness and approachability. As perhaps the most poignant evidence of the incalculable impact of Dr. Conn’s work at Lee, during his initial tenure as President, he personally conferred 21,420 degrees to graduates of Lee’s myriad programs.

Even after serving full-time on the Lee campus for some fifty years, Dr. Conn retains a love for college students and particularly seeing them grow through the Lee University experience. It is a love that shines through in whatever role he has held at Lee, be it faculty or administrative.

Dr. and Mrs. Conn have three grown children, who, along with their spouses, are all graduates of Lee. The Conns also have 10 grandchildren, six of whom have graduated from Lee, so far.