A street in historic downtown Cleveland has been re-named to honor the retiring president of Lee University. Parker Street travels through the center of Lee University’s campus and has been officially re-named Paul Conn Parkway. The street, flanked on either side by university buildings, is a scenic focal point in the heart downtown with its distinctive architecture, landscaped lawns and tree lined medians.
Dr. Paul Conn served as president of Lee University for 34 years, retiring this year and taking over as chancellor.
In 2016, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland (1991-2018) proposed the re-naming and it was agreed to wait until Dr. Conn’s retirement year. Mr. Rowland retired in 2018 after 28 years as Cleveland’s mayor and Dr. Conn retired this past year. A few weeks ago, the current Mayor Kevin Brooks and members of Cleveland City Council, working from Rowland’s 2016 recommendation, unanimously voted to rename Parker Street as Paul Conn Parkway.
Cleveland City Councilman Dale Hughes, a Lee alumnus and former Lee faculty member, spoke at a brief dedication ceremony attended by city officials and Lee family and staff. Mr. Hughes traced Dr. Conn’s journey from childhood, living in the Parker Street area and walking to Arnold School, to Bradley Central High School and graduating from Lee College. He also outlined the progress of the school and contributed Dr. Conn and wife Darlia for their contributions in growing Lee College into Lee University and into a beautifully landscaped campus of over 120 acres.
Mr. Hughes described Conn as a visionary who has taken the university to worldwide fame and influenced thousands of students around the world. The Christian based liberal arts school was established in 1918. It began as a Bible Training School in 1918 by the Church of God, became Bob Jones College and was renamed in 1947 in honor of its second president the Rev. F.J. Lee. In 1997, under Dr. Conn’s leadership, it attained University status .
In 1984 Dr. Conn took over the presidency, once held by his father the late Charles W. Conn. (1970-1982). A few weeks ago, Dr. Mark Walker became the new Lee University president and Dr. Conn becomes the university’s first chancellor.
Another street on the campus, 15th Street was re-named in 2012 to honor Billy Graham, worldwide evangelist who attended the campus when it was Bob Jones College. Billy Graham Avenue ends at North Ocoee Street near Medlin Hall, the dormitory where Graham once resided. His daughter Gigi Graham came to Cleveland for the dedication, hosted by Dr. Conn and Mayor Rowland, who initiated the street honoring the late Mr. Graham.