Lee College – Celebrating 90 Years SERVING THE COMMUNITY

A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME

Longtime Employees Reflect on Lee College’s Transformations

In 1934, history unfolded in remarkable ways. While the criminal exploits of Bonnie and Clyde echoed through the nation, the Federal Communications Commission was established, and baseball icon Babe Ruth marked a milestone with his 700th home run.

During these notable events of 1934, Lee Junior College emerged in Goose Creek, Texas, with a vision to pioneer academic and technical excellence for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. That fall, the school welcomed its inaugural class of 177 students and embarked on a mission that would echo through the decades.

Fast forward 90 years, and Lee College stands as a testament to its founders’ dreams. Breaking records and transforming lives, the institution has become a cornerstone of education in southeast Texas.

Lee College employee Jim Campisi recalls the day he set foot on campus. It was March 8, 1990. He was the college’s first full-time security officer, and in his mind, he was going to give Lee College two years and move on. That was 34 years ago.

Campisi, who is the longest serving full-time staff member at Lee, left his security post after a few years and moved to Shipping and Receiving, where he remains to this day. He’s also a proud alumnus – having received an associate degree in business management with honors.

During his career at the school, Campisi says the biggest change he’s seen was the evolution and integration of technology.

“When I started, we didn’t have computers at our desks,” he recalled with a chuckle. “When you wanted to set up a meeting or send a message, you would have to type out a memo, take it to the mailroom and wait for it to be collected and for a response. Who would have thought that now we can walk around campus and check our emails on our phones?”

As you can imagine, the campus also looked vastly different. There were half as many buildings as there are now.

“What we all know today as John Britt Hall was the Social Sciences Building,” Campisi explained. “Tucker Hall didn’t exist, and now that’s an older building. The fountain that is behind Rundell Hall used to be a parking lot for that building.”

Mike Spletter came to Lee College in April 2002 as a student activities coordinator. The Wisconsin native was brought to Baytown to help convert the old library into a new Student Center. For him, there’s no question October 23, 2004, the day of the ribbon cutting for the first iteration of the Student Center, was his favorite moment as an employee.

Nineteen years later, Spletter, who is now the student engagement manager, would experience another transformative moment — the ribbon cutting for the second renovation of the Student Center. That took place in November 2023 and was made possible by a generous $5 million donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Former athletic director Karen Guthmiller’s favorite moment was in 2003 when the new Sports Complex opened. She and her coaches were excited to show off the beautiful new home for athletics, which also hosted playoff games and University Interscholastic League (UIL) tournaments that continue today.

“Our motto was, ‘We are the front door of Lee College’,” she emphasized. “We did so many amazing things to promote and raise money to support our athletic teams – such as hosting golf tournaments. We held summer camps for kids to bring them to campus and show them athletics is a valuable part of Lee College. We also created the Positive Partner program to promote businesses that would purchase signage in our arena, which was always packed with parents and people from the community.”

“I thought I would be here for three years, but there was something about this college that has kept me here since 1993,” Guthmiller continued. “Lee College is a place where you can continually grow and improve.”

“Lee College has always been student-focused, putting students first,” Spletter added.

“You don’t stay in one company for this many years,” Campisi shared. “It’s been like family here. I think because I see the value in education and how we impact the lives of so many people.”

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