Whitehall grad making most of Ivy League experience

Messenger photo by Dianne Garrett

Andy Lee visits with his mom, Debbie, at home during his winter break from Yale University. This is the 2005 Whitehall graduate’s third year at the Ivy League school. Through a grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Lee is enjoying a year- long independent study, which afforded him a ten-day trip to London in November to study Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill exhibit. He will also spend one week this spring at The Huntington in San Marino, Calif., near Los Angeles.

Sometimes a wonderful opportunity happens by accident.

Andy Lee, a 2005 Whitehall Yearling High School graduate, is in his third year at Yale University, which only has a 9 percent acceptance rate.

As he studied and walked the halls of WYHS, he never had any intentions of seeking an education at an Ivy League school.

He explained that during his junior year he started getting informational packets from various colleges. One was from Yale, and he thought he’d just check it out by attending a meeting for more information. He never really dreamed that is where he would land.

He completed applications, received some partial scholarships, and was headed to New Haven, Conn., pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in art history.

Andy did experience some apprehensions about going to a school with a 53 percent prep school population, but he is holding his own in class, and doesn’t let any of that intimidate him.

He has met some interesting fellow students, and some come from generations of Yale students in their families.

Bob and Debbie Lee are proud of their son. Debbie says that it didn’t surprise her that her son would follow this path.

Since about the age of 3 he has been fascinated by castles and architecture. His mom shared that he built some pretty interestingly detailed structures with Legos.

Andy shrugged that comment off by saying that he thought all toddlers did that kind of stuff.

Debbie has enjoyed some tours at the Yale British Art Center conducted by her son. She said that she now has a more critical eye for detail, and sees things differently than she used to, because of what Andy has taught her.

She noted that Andy has always wanted to know how things came to be, leading to his focus on art history.

Through a grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Andy is enjoying a one- year independent study. He studies with an instructor five or six hours a day. He enjoyed his first research trip in November to London, where he studied at Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill. It is one of the first Gothic Revival mansions in England, and currently restricted due to restorations.

The exhibit Andy is working on will go up at the Yale British Art Center in the fall of 2009, and then to the Victorian Albert Museum in the spring of 2010.

This spring he will go on his second research trip to San Marino, Calif., close to Los Angeles. While there, he plans to take a few days to visit his retired WYHS art/theatre teacher, Jan Plank.

After graduation he is not sure what direction he will take. He originally contemplated becoming a museum curator, but he is also interested in interior design.

Andy offered that he felt prepared when he left for Yale, because he was self-driven through his four years of high school. But he credits teachers Plank, Serena Bradshaw, Lori Buchieri and Janette Bandy as the driving forces behind his motivation towards his higher education.

Yale had its origins during the 1640’s when a colonial clergyman led an effort to establish the college to preserve the tradition of European liberal education in the New World. It received its charter in 1701 for arts and sciences. Seventeen years later it was officially named Yale College honoring Elihu Welch. The merchant donated proceeds from selling goods, books and a portrait of King George. There are now 11,000 students from all 50 states and 108 countries enrolled.

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