Lee News

Forum Named in Darlia Conn's Honor

The new clock and bell tower over Lee University’s South Campus Quad has been officially named the Darlia McLuhan Conn Forum and Bell Tower, according to a recent action by the Lee University Board of Directors. The naming honors the former First Lady of Lee, Darlia Conn, who led the university alongside her husband Paul Conn from 1986 to Aug. 1, 2020.

Darlia Conn
Darlia McLuhan Conn

“For more than 34 years, Darlia Conn has been an active and deeply involved part of the leadership of this university,” said Dennis Livingston, Lee’s board chairman. “Those of us who serve on the board admire her deep commitment to students, her love for music, and her fellow musicians, and the many sacrifices she has made over so many years to make Lee the wonderful place it is. We felt that naming the clock and bell tower overlooking the South Campus in her name would be an ideal representation of our appreciation for her service.”

The forum is used by various groups across campus as a frequent meeting place for formal events and casual gatherings.

“It’s very humbling, because the forum is such a striking and remarkable part of the South Campus,” said Conn. “To have such a place named for me is such a huge honor.”

Conn is as noted for her constant public presence in support of her husband’s work as she is for her own work in community initiatives, arts advocacy on and off campus, donor cultivation, and perhaps her most visible day-to-day contribution of piano accompaniment for music majors over more than three decades.

In the 80s and 90s, she led and served in the Cleveland Symphony Guild, bringing orchestral music to the public school students of Bradley County. In 2009, she served as an annual United Way co-chair with Janey Cooke, who teamed with her in a friendly competition against their husbands, Paul Conn and Dan Cooke, to lead fundraising supporting numerous community initiatives.

She has also been actively engaged on campus with social service clubs, diversity groups, and music students, helping and guiding as mentor and friend. In 2012, a group of African alumni and students created the Darlia McLuhan Conn African Student Endowment Scholarship for Lee students from Africa, where she spent much of her childhood. She was an early member and the first president of the Delta Zeta Tau Alumni Association, supporting the social service club of which she was a member and president during her time as a Lee student.

In 1992, she and her husband began the Presidential Concert Series, an annual concert series bringing top musical talent in a variety of genres to the Cleveland community several evenings of each year. She now serves as the Artistic Director of that series.

Conn’s faith in God and love for students, music, and the Lee experience are seen, heard, and felt across campus and through the years. It is fitting to name in her honor a structure that will steadfastly mark the passage of time, ring out the tolls and peals of future celebrations, and serve as a Lee family gathering place for years to come.

A private ceremony to celebrate this honor was scheduled to take place earlier this month, but was postponed due to COVID-19.

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