Robert Lee



Interview Date


Biographical History

Born in St. Louis in 1944, Robert Lee attended Central High School and then received his degree from Harris Teachers’ College in 1966. After working for four years in the St. Louis Public Schools, he became Assistant Director of Admissions at Illinois State University. Lee became the first Assistant Dean for Minority Student Affairs at the Washington University School of Medicine in 1972, a position he held for 22 years.

He received a Ph.D. in Psychology from St. Louis University in 1979. He joined the faculty of Emory University School of Medicine as Associate Dean and Director of Multicultural Medical Student Affairs in 1994.


An interview of the Washington University Medical Center Desegregation History Project, conducted by Edwin W. McCleskey and associates, 1990. Approximate Length: 1 hour and 35 minutes.

Robert Lee discusses his work as Assistant Dean for Minority Student Affairs at Washington University School of Medicine and his efforts to increase recruitment, admission, and retention of Black students and students from other minority groups.

Lee begins by discussing how he came to work at Washington University and his early years as the Coordinator for Minority Student Affairs. He discusses changes in how the School of Medicine recruited students from minority groups and supported students who enrolled, and how he worked to build credibility for the programs he implemented.

Lee then relates how Black faculty and students were historically obstructed from joining the school, and how segregation affected patient care and treatment at Barnes Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He addresses how health care for the Black community has changed since the closure of Homer G. Phillips Hospital.

Next, Lee discusses local and national recruitment strategies and the relationships he and his department have built with historically Black colleges and universities as well as predominantly white institutions. He addresses how tuition plays a role in attracting students from underrepresented minority groups and what strategies they have taken to create scholarship programs. He explains that John Schultz, John Herweg, John Walters, Howard Phillip Venable, and John Anderson played a significant role in recruiting Black students before he was hired.

Lastly, he addresses preconceptions about Washington University and how he talks to prospective students about its status as a predominantly white institution. He also explains his process for connecting with Black applicants.


Washington University Medical Center Desegregation History Project


Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives


Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri