Lee Waldrep is my younger brother. He has been gainfully employed in higher education as an academic advisor for almost 30 years — most recently by the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. Just before Christmas, he abruptly lost his administrative position — and probably his career — due to a series of articles alleging unprofessional conduct when he held a similar position at the University of Illinois years earlier. It is important to note that at the U of Illinois, Lee believes that the results of the investigation were false. However, he chose to voluntarily leave after signing a mutually binding commitment that the findings would remain "private and confidential". Lee secured another administrative position, and moved on with his life — or so he thought.
Lee worked for minimum wage in the interim until learning about, applying for, interviewing, and being offered a similar academic advisor position at UT Knoxville — a job that required him to move seven hours away from his family. He was offered the UT Knoxville position after repeated interviews and honestly answering all pre-hire interview questions — including the circumstances regarding his previous jobs. His first performance review ranked him as "meeting or exceeding" expectations in ALL categories. Clearly, Lee was doing what he does very well at UT Knoxville.
Lee received positive reviews from current and former students, peers, and administrators at every institution he has worked. Despite this, he was fired just before the holidays for alleged incidents that happened years ago at U of Illinois. What happened? In short, a writer for the News-Gazette in Illinois published portions of the private and confidential investigation, allegations that Lee adamantly denies.
The upshot of all this is that Lee has had his professional and personal life destroyed after decades of successfully helping students reach their academic and career goals. Neighbors, friends, his pastor, colleagues, former students, and his family have come to his aid. An organized group authored a letter to the editors of the two newspapers that have covered this story, expressing doubt about the allegations, decrying his treatment by his employers, and vouching for Lee’s character. It was published several weeks ago. I have copied a couple of key paragraphs below:
"Recently your paper and others have given extensive coverage to the conduct and employment status of Dr. Lee Waldrep. As individuals who have known him as a friend, professional colleague, teacher, neighbor, or member of our church, we have felt compelled to take the initiative to speak up. In short, we do not recognize the Lee Waldrep we have read about.
We have known Dr. Waldrep, or Lee as most of us know him, to be a serious professional, an effective teacher, a respected author, someone deeply committed to advancing the field of architecture (which he has been involved in professionally for more than 25 years), and above all as a man devoted to his students and to his family. Some of us have known him for decades; none of us are related to him by blood or marriage.” I've known Lee longer than any of them and couldn't agree more. (To see the entire letter, visit: http://www.news-gazette.com/opinion/letters-the-editor/2019-01-06/letter-the-editor-waldrep-has-proven-be-trustworthy.html ).
I know that my brother is a man of great integrity, honesty, perseverance, intelligence, heart AND a person that has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to overcome hardship and adversity under very trying conditions. Tragically, our family lost both our father and mother to cancer when Lee was just six and eleven years old. Lee battled his own serious cancer diagnosis beginning in 2007 (five surgeries and years of treatments) and has confronted other difficult personal episodes throughout his life. Thankfully, Lee was able to get the help he needed from his family, church, spouse, children, friends, colleagues, and health professionals. He overcame every challenge and has thrived both professional and personally. He went on to receive a Ph.D., wrote the definitive book on becoming an architect, has given countless professional presentations, and helped launch the careers of many practicing architects. He deserves to be treated fairly and honestly. Unfortunately, the author of the critical article and the administrators at two institutions of higher learning chose to hear only one side of a perplexing issue. Lee was robbed of his right to due process, given assurances that were violated, and now finds himself blacklisted.
The funds raised through this campaign will help push back against the wrongs perpetrated by the UT Knoxville administration (who have falsified statements and cast Lee as unprofessional in spite of their own positive 6-month evaluation), help defray expenses associated with his appeals and legal action related to his dismissal, support his family during his job search, and cover costs associated with his long-term commitments in Knoxville — which are in limbo at this point. A contribution in any amount will be very much appreciated and help sustain Lee and his family during this very challenging period. There is no guarantee that he will be able to work again in his chosen field — an area in which he has tremendous experience and expertise. It would unfortunate to lose such a strong advisor and student advocate because of this unfortunate situation.
I have no doubt that Lee will survive this latest challenge but with your help and contributions, the path forward will be less difficult. His friends, colleagues, students, family, and, most importantly, his faith will continue to sustain him. A remarkable man, I know he will rise above the fray and emerge stronger than ever. Thank you all very much!
With great appreciation,
Mark Waldrep, Ph.D.