Lee, Dr. Arthur
Dr. Arthur O. Lee passed away at the age of 91 on Saturday, September 24, 2022, surrounded by his family.
A celebration of life service will be held at 11:00 AM, on Friday, October 21, at First Lutheran Church in Bemidji, MN. The Reverend Corey Fuhrman will be officiating.
Art Lee was the youngest of four children born to first-generation Norwegian parents, A.O. Sr. and Arla (Scarvey) Lee on August 20, 1931 in Scandinavia, Wisconsin. Art’s happy and adventurous childhood in this small Norwegian/American community became the subject of many of his future books, including “The Lutefisk Ghetto: Life in a Norwegian-American Town”. Art graduated from Scandinavia High School in 1949 and from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa with a degree in History. On August 20th, 1953, on his 24th birthday, he married his high school sweetheart, Judith Marilyn Jorgesen at Scandinavia Lutheran Church. The couple then moved to Osseo, WI where Art began his first job in education teaching Social Studies at Osseo High School. Son Scott and daughter Kristen were born in Wisconsin, and in October of 1959, the family of 4 moved to Bemidji, Minnesota, where daughter Karin was later born. Art continued his education and received his PhD in U.S. History at the University of North Dakota. His PhD dissertation was a history of BSU entitled “College in the Pines”.
Art began his long teaching career at Bemidji State College, later to become Bemidji State University, in 1959. For 36 years, Dr. Lee taught US History to thousands of students. His classes were engaging and rigorous, inspiring the often-heard comment, “Dr. Lee was my favorite teacher, and man was he tough!” During his years at BSU Art received the Lecturer of the Year Award multiple times. He also wrote a variety of published novels, and was in great demand as a community lecturer and speaker long into retirement. His portrait and commemorative plaque hang in the foyer of the new Hagg-Sauer Hall on the BSU campus and where the Arthur Lee Lecture Hall can be found. All of these were in honor his ability to captivate and motivate BSU students over the years.
Although Art was an exceptional educator, if you asked him what his greatest accomplishment was, he would say being a husband, father and grandfather. In his retirement years, Art could be found traveling internationally with his wife, Judy, as an Elderhostel lecturer. In the kitchen he was famous for baking bread. He enjoyed patiently and endlessly swinging his young grandchildren on the swing set in the back yard. He loved quietly and he loved deeply, and he never failed to tell his family how proud he was of them.
Art is survived by his wife of 67 years, Judy; his 3 children; Scott Lee, Kristen (Rick) Barnes and Karin Lee. His grandchildren; Molly (Aron) Roberts, Kristian Hansen, Eirik Hansen, Madeline Barnes and Micah Barnes. He was preceded in death by his parents; A.O. Sr. and Arla Lee; sister Madelyn Larson; brothers Loren Lee and Robert Lee.
People wishing to honor Dr. Lee’s lifetime commitment to teaching may make donations to the Arthur O. Lee History and Education Scholarship at Bemidji State University https://bsualumni.org/artleescholarship/ Donations may also be made by mail to the BSU Alumni Foundation-Attention Art Lee Scholarship, 1500 Birchmont Dr. NE #17, Bemidji, MN 56601.