Dirksen Named Department Of Language & Literature Honorary Distinguished Alumnus

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - by Charity Parris, Lee University
Dr. Carolyn Dirksen, left, with Dr. Jean Eledge, after receiving the 2017 Language & Literature Honorary Distinguished Alumnus Award at a department breakfast during Homecoming
Dr. Carolyn Dirksen, left, with Dr. Jean Eledge, after receiving the 2017 Language & Literature Honorary Distinguished Alumnus Award at a department breakfast during Homecoming

Dr. Carolyn Dirksen was awarded the 2017 Honorary Distinguished Alumnus Award for Lee University’s Department of Language & Literature at a breakfast during Homecoming.

“If we drew up a description of what we would hope and dream for a graduate of the Department of Language & Literature, that description would look like Dr. Carolyn Dirksen’s life,” said Dr. Jean Eledge, chairperson of the department. 

Dr. Dirksen came to Lee in 1968 as an instructor in English after completing a Master of Arts in English at Northern Arizona University. Her teaching skills were recognized quickly, and in 1972, she received the first Excellence in Teaching Award ever given at Lee. In 1974, Dr. Dirksen became the first female faculty member to be granted a sabbatical to begin a Doctor of Philosophy program in linguistics at the University of Arizona, which she completed in 1977. 

According to Dr. Eledge, Dr. Dirksen has played a major role in Lee’s evolution from small private college to comprehensive liberal arts university. She served as co-chair of the Core Revision Task Force in 1995, leading the way for a dramatically revised general education requirement that included an extensive cross-cultural experience for every student. 

While at Lee, Dr. Dirksen has also served in various roles, such as the chair of the Department of Language & Literature, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, and the vice president for academic affairs. Currently, she is the director of faculty development. 

Dr. Dirksen and her husband, Dr. Murl Dirksen, opened a ministry in East Cleveland called Agape House and, with the aid of Lee student volunteers, reached out to more than 100 children. For the last two years while she has been serving as director of faculty development, she has also been mobilizing Lee faculty, staff, and students to “adopt,” support, and transform a small Christian school-orphanage in Liberia. Under her direction, individuals, groups, and departments have come together to provide the school with resources. 

“Carolyn Dirksen’s impact has been transformational at every level of work and service from individual to institutional,” said Dr. Eledge. “She has brought honor to our department and to Lee as she has humbly served Christ through serving others. The department is pleased to officially, appropriately, and with thanksgiving, celebrate her 50 years of lasting impact.” 


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