She went where life took her. It took her across the country, across the world, and back to school for a PhD – 25 years after she completed her MBA.
“Neither of my parents finished high school. Both made it to the eighth grade, and they always wanted us to go to school – to go to college,” explained Peggy Daniels Lee. “To have my dad at my hooding ceremony, after completing my PhD at George Washington University when I was nearly 50 years old – that was one of the highlights of my life. My mom had already passed away, but it meant so much to have my dad there.”
Peggy Daniels Lee, clinical associate professor of operations management and faculty chair of the Kelley Indianapolis Undergraduate Program, will retire June 30. Looking back, she’s proud of where she’s been.
“People tell me: You’ve had such an interesting life. I say: I went where life took me. I didn’t plan to get a PhD. I knew I loved school, and some of the most fun I’ve had was sitting in the stacks at the George Washington library, reading everything I could get my hands on. I used to tell people I like being a student more than I like being a professor. At one point, I thought maybe I’ll go get a PhD in philosophy or something. I still could!”
BellSouth and a PhD
Peggy completed her bachelor’s degree in English Literature at the University of Michigan. Her senior year, she got married and had a baby (her beloved son, Jay).
She worked at Duke University before pursuing an MBA with a concentration in marketing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Later, Peggy worked for First Union National Bank and, then, Southern Bell Telephone Company, where she worked for 16 years in project management and in three different states.
“I liked working on the technical side of things, and I liked managing projects because they have a beginning, middle and an end — and, then, you move on to the next one.”
When the company (then called BellSouth) began downsizing, it offered employees a buy-out if they elected to go to school.
“At that point, I’d been out of my MBA program for 25 years, and I thought I was a bit too old to go back to school,” said Peggy. “But I took a couple courses, and I loved them. I was almost 50 at the time, and I said: Let’s see what we can do.”
“I read the book What Color is Your Parachute for the second time. Anytime I get to a turning point in my life, I read that book. It’s what I tell my students to do, too,” she said.
Peggy researched PhD programs, and it seemed logistics and operations was what she’d been doing all along in her position at BellSouth.
“So I put half my stuff in storage in Atlanta, and I moved the other half into an apartment in Washington, DC in order to get my PhD at George Washington University. I’d been out of my MBA longer than some of my classmates had been alive, but I had such fun in that PhD program.”
It took her six years. She began working as a professor at Penn State University Erie and, later, Penn State University Great Valley. In August 2009, she accepted a job at the Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis.
At the Kelley School
“I liked that IUPUI had a mix of non-traditional aged students. It felt like a really cool place to be,” said Peggy. “What I liked the most about coming to IUPUI is the ability to make an impact with whatever you bring to the table. You can make a difference. Everyone is valued for what you bring, and I appreciate how much dedication there is to the students. I liked that students come first at IUPUI. Whatever we do should make the students’ lives better.”
And Peggy surely has done that. In fact, she was soon asked to be Faculty Chair of the Indianapolis Undergraduate Program and led the Undergraduate Policy Committee to revamp the Undergraduate Program curriculum. Peggy was also tasked with growing the honors program at that time.
“It took Executive Associate Dean Ken Carow three weeks to convince me to take that position,” Peggy laughs. “He said, ‘You know, you can make a difference.’ And that did it.”
In addition to her service to Kelley, Peggy worked at the campus level to help create the general education core for all IUPUI undergraduate students, and she served on the IUPUI Honors College advisory committee. Peggy has led a number of innovations, including the introduction of a team dynamics and leadership course for I-Core, real-world consulting projects for I-Core and the expansion of study abroad experiences.
“I am most proud that I’ve contributed to the lives of students. I believe students leave here well-equipped to be successful at whatever they choose to do. Our curriculum review team created something that will last and will continue to grow and improve.”
“When I became faculty chair, we talked to students, faculty and staff, asking them about the curriculum: What more does this need? I-Core at the time was only three classes, and we discussed how Kelley students do a lot of work in teams. But I realized, we don’t teach them HOW to work in teams. As a result, we added the course on team dynamics and leadership. We also included special topics courses that gave faculty the flexibility to explore new course ideas.”
“From the moment Peggy arrived in Indianapolis, she was an active member of the community. She jumped into various community events, and she became involved with campus activities. But most importantly, she became an integral part of Kelley,” said Kim Donahue, senior lecturer in marketing. “Her boundless optimism, initiative and work ethic pushed all of us to do more and to do better. In I-Core, specifically, she challenged the status quo and incorporated fresh ideas into the program. It was my pleasure to have Peggy as my office neighbor. Her sense of humor, her sense of community and her compassion and empathy led to many meaningful conversations. I will miss her insights, her intelligence and her smile, but most of all, I am really going to just miss Peggy.”
“If it were not for [professors] Mark Ippolito, Kim Donahue and Jim Smith, I don’t know if I would have made it through I-Core,” said Peggy. “They answered every question I had, made me feel welcome and really gave me a good tutorial on the history of I-Core.”
“Changes to the Indianapolis Undergraduate Program under Peggy’s leadership have made the program much more robust and more closely aligned with the needs of the business community,” said Mark Ippolito, senior lecturer in operations management. “For me, personally, she provided a thoughtful sounding board for new ideas and provided leadership in rethinking the content of the intro to operations-supply chain course. Her thoughtfulness and insights will be greatly missed.”
“Peggy is the backbone of Kelley for me,” said Angela Andrews, clinical assistant professor of accounting. “She was the first person I met when I interviewed here, and she’s always made time to make sure I am okay. She’s provided the most helpful insights, and she never made me feel like I was a burden when I came looking for her. I will truly miss her!”
Peggy is also involved professionally within her discipline, serving as a board member of the Decision Sciences Institute International as the VP of Americas, which is an elected position. She has served as treasurer, president and past president, among other positions, for the Midwest Decision Sciences Institute. Her expertise in gamification to enhance the student experience with virtual worlds sets her apart.
“I cannot imagine a faculty member who has done more service ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ than professor Peggy Lee. She has a sincere passion for students, the university and the community, and she is able to bring everyone together to create great impact,” said Ken Carow, executive associate dean of the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. “Professor Lee is one of those individuals you can always count on to get the job done, to do it better than you could have imagined and to involve those around her so that everyone is supportive of the solution. She is one of the most humble people you will meet. She quietly does each task epitomizing the role of servant leader. We will miss her.”
June 30 is Peggy’s last day at the Kelley School before she retires. Her plans after this? To move back to Philadelphia, where she owns a home; reunite with her book club and wine tasting group friends and when it’s safe, travel the world.
“I want to go to Morocco and Egypt and West Africa, and I want to do more than just go through London; I’d like to spend time wandering around in the places I see in the British comedies. I also want to teach a little online, just to keep my brain active. I’m also planning to come back to Indianapolis to help with the BOSS Entrepreneurship Program, which introduces high school students to entrepreneurship and business. Like my son always says, anywhere is a plane ride away.”
“I am really going to miss the people here at the Kelley School in Indianapolis,” said Peggy. “I’ve met so many cool people, and I’ve learned so much from them.”
She will miss the individual moments with students that make it all worthwhile.
“My most memorable moments every year are when I get to shake all those students’ hands at Commencement. You see what you helped to create. You meet students’ families, and you’re able to congratulate them on a job well-done. Those moments are the reason I teach.”
“I remember last year at the spring awards banquet, one of the students mentioned me during his acceptance speech. He said, ‘I’d like to thank Professor Lee. If it wasn’t for her, I would never have been a supply chain major.’ I started to cry. I had no idea at all. That’s one of my most memorable moments in teaching. I am so proud of the students here at IUPUI. They thrive and overcome, and they’re successful. Many of these students are working to take care of their families and get a degree at the same time. I’m so inspired by these students, and they’re the reason I do this.”
Her advice for students? Stop being afraid – and go for it.
“Don’t be afraid of new opportunities. Don’t be afraid of moving. Don’t be afraid of going somewhere you’ve never been before. I came to Indianapolis by myself. I went to Germany by myself. I went to DC by myself for my PhD. That’s where life led me. Go where life leads you. Make your own mark. Make your own decisions, and trust your intuition.
“Do what your heart tells you to do, and don’t let anybody tell you differently. You’re going to make mistakes. I know; I’ve made a lot of them. But don’t be afraid; just keep moving.”
Posted by: Teresa Mackin, firstname.lastname@example.org