At a Springfield ceremony on Nov. 12, the Lincoln Academy of Illinois honored senior Chris Lee as a recipient of the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award. Lee represented Wheaton College as one of 56 outstanding college students in the state.
Each year, beginning in 1964, students whose achievements bring honor to the state are inducted into the Order of Lincoln, the state’s “highest award” as described by former Governor James R. Thompson. This year, the award was presented by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana.
The Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award recognizes seniors from each of the state’s four-year colleges and universities, and one student from state community colleges, for their excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities. Each student laureate receives a medallion, certificate and a $1,000 educational grant.
Lee is an Applied Health Science and Spanish double major and the second health science major to win the award in two years, following Kyle Mellinger in 2015. He is also a member of the varsity track and field and varsity cross country teams at Wheaton, for which he received four CCIW Academic All-Conference student-athlete awards.
As a junior, Lee worked as a teacher’s assistant in the Human Anatomy lab with associate professor of applied health science Dana Townsend. Townsend said, “He made a choice, when unforeseen time conflicts occurred in fall 2015, to fulfill his commitment to his work as a TA and to his students in Anatomy even though it cost him personally in another important area of his life.” For this, Townsend considers him a “trusted, supportive colleague.”
Lee’s excellence was noted by several others in the department as well. “Chris is not a student who makes a loud splash in the ‘verbal pool.’ Rather, his impact comes from a strong work ethic, critical mind, and thoughtful words and deeds,” said professor of applied health science Peter Walters.
Associate professor of applied health science Brian Hunt called Lee “an academic ninja” not only for his silent thoughtfulness and academic achievement, but also for the way he encourages the growth of fellow students.
Having two AHS majors in two years as nominees for the award speaks to the quality of these students: they are “eager to bless mankind,” “willing to be stretched” and are some of “the best students and people in America,” according to Townsend, Walters and Hunt.
To Lee, this award is an “enormous honor.” “It gives me motivation to continue learning and working to make a difference in this world as a follower of Christ,” he said.
After graduating next May with a B.S. from Wheaton College, Lee plans to use the grant to help further his health science education by attending medical school.