Margie Lee named associate dean for research and graduate studies at veterinary college
June 5, 2023
Lee, among the third class of graduates from the veterinary college at Virginia Tech in 1986, and one of its earliest Black graduates, has been head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology at VMCVM since 2018. Lee also stepped in as interim director of the Animal Cancer Care and Research Center, a teaching hospital and translational research center of the college located in Roanoke, during the past year.
“We are very excited to have Margie Lee stepping up to this position overseeing our college’s research enterprise and graduate programs,” said Givens. “Margie has already accomplished so much for our college and in her career. She has extensive experience and has already made huge contributions in every facet of what she will be leading in our college moving forward. She is a proven leader who excels in motivating and supporting teaching and research faculty.”
Lee grew up in eastern Bedford County, attending public schools as they were integrated after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. A gift of two ponies to her family from someone her father worked for sparked an early interest in caring for animals.
“I wanted to be a veterinarian, although I had never seen one,” Lee said. “I had understood these mythical creatures existed somewhere. I think there was only one in the county. I think I saw my first veterinarian when I was maybe 17 years old, but I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian since the time I was 5.”
Lee is the author or co-author of 92 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals focusing on various aspects of microbial pathogenesis, molecular ecology and epidemiology, and diagnostic microbiology.
She said her focus in the new role will be on developing infrastructure to support the veterinary college’s burgeoning research and on empowering faculty to pursue their objectives.
“I have focused less on vision and more on philosophy, because I find that the philosophy usually will exceed any vision I would have come up with,” Lee said. “My philosophy as department head has been that we couldn't grow the research enterprise until we did a better job with research infrastructure. And having that infrastructure means that the faculty are able to focus on what they are paid to do, and if you have clear expectations, you will get good outcomes.
“I'm a strategist by personality,” Lee said. “What do we need to be doing now so that we're ready for five years from now?”
Lee, who steps into the new role on June 10, will succeed S. Ansar Ahmed, who will remain at VMCVM and devote more time to conducting research. Ahmed has been associate dean since 2017, a period that has seen a dramatic increase in research funding at the veterinary college and the hiring of several accomplished research faculty members.
At the University of Georgia, where Lee earned her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in medical microbiology and spent most of three decades before returning to Blacksburg, Lee held a series of leadership roles that covered many of the same functions she will supervise in her new role at VMCVM, including graduate coordinator in the Department of Population Health, coordinator of combined DVM/Ph.D. programs and collegewide graduate programs for the veterinary college, associate director of the Biomedical Health Sciences Institute , and laboratory director in the Poultry Diagnostic Research Center.
Virginia’s decision in the late 1970s to place the state’s veterinary college at Virginia Tech influenced Lee’s own decision on where to attend college, even before VMCVM opened in 1980. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Virginia Tech in 1982.
Lee and Lynne Hoban in the 1986 class were the first Black students to graduate from the veterinary college. The Hoban, Lee, and Dance Endowed Scholarship Fund bears their names, along with that of Mario Dance, the first Black male graduate of the veterinary college in 1990. The fund provides financial aid to veterinary students from underrepresented groups.
“Right now, I'm living a life that has exceeded anything I could have had as a dream,” Lee said. “I probably exceeded the dream by the time I was 23.”
Lee hopes to inspire faculty and students to pursue some of their wildest dreams in her new role.
“I want people to bring me their crazy ideas,” Lee said. “When I was at Georgia, I ended up being the person that people on campus would seek out to talk about their crazy ideas. And I would be the one who would say, ‘That's a great idea. Let's go do that.’ And we would find a way to do that. That’s the fun thing about growing research initiatives that I really enjoy.”