Irene Lee Book Prize in Latin

Irene Lee
Irene Lee (1907 - 1985)

Irene Lee taught school in British Columbia high schools for more than 40 years, retiring in 1972. Her love of teaching and her love of students prompted her to establish this scholarship.

Born Irene Cumming in Calgary, she graduated from high school in Trail, B.C., then went on to graduate from the University of Alberta in Edmonton with a gold medal in history in 1927. Her uncle was Dr. G. Fred McNally, Chancellor of the University of Alberta. Over the next several years, Irene taught in several B.C. centres: Kimberley, Rossland, Princeton, Port Alberni. Next, she moved to Vancouver Island and taught in Sidney, then Victoria, including 20 years at Mount View High School. When she began teaching, she taught a number of subjects, including physical education (a subject that was dear to her husband, Larry Lee). Irene loved physical activity, and was an excellent sprinter in what are now the 100-metres and 200-metres. She also taught French and Spanish at various times, and was a school counselor. But Irene was an English teacher at heart. She was a great lover of literature, and read extensively.

Irene was a gifted teacher who challenged her students, but she was always aware of their individual needs and she strived to help each one. She was always available for assistance and support. She was also aware of the financial drains of school, and she and her husband purchased their Battery Street home, Pinehurst (now a subsidized housing complex by the same name operated by the Capital Region Housing Corporation), to provide student renters with accommodation for many years.

For leisure, Irene enjoyed skiing, and was known to carry her skis high into the Purcell's to ski out again. She water-skied well into her 60s. She was a great lover of animals, including "Big Boy" and "Baby," the two sea gulls that frequented her kitchen window overlooking Victoria and the Sooke hills. She and her husband loved to travel, and with characteristic good humour, they took with them a blow-up elephant named Dumbo as a third companion. Dumbo journeyed with them to many places, including Russia and India, and provided enjoyment for many people they met.

Irene created this book prize because she believed in academic excellence and the need for students to have financial support while pursuing an education.

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