Legendary film director and producer Spike Lee and his wife, Tonya Lewis Lee, attorney, filmmaker, author, and activist, joined Spelman College on Nov. 28 for a celebration honoring his familial connection with the college.
The college dedicated the Admissions Office in Packard Hall to Lee’s grandmother, Zimmie Reatha Shelton, and his mother, Jacquelyn Shelton Lee, both of who graduated from Spelman in 1929 and 1954, respectively.
They both lived in Packard when it was a residential hall, and Lee’s grandmother also attended Spelman High School in 1925.
“Spelman women are known for their ability to influence and change the world,” said Dr. Gayle, M.D., MPH, 11th president of Spelman College.
“We are witnessing the influence of two Spelman alumnae and the legacy work of their grandson and son, respectively, Spike Lee. We are proud to lay claim to some of their aspirations and impact on Spike, through their experiences in this very place during their matriculation at Spelman, including their dorm life at Packard Hall.”
Following the dedication, they unveiled banners outside of the building showcasing historic black and white photos of Mrs. Shelton and Mrs. Lee.
“My father went there, my grandfather went there, and my mother and grandmother went to Spelman,” said Lee, who followed in his family’s footsteps and graduated from Morehouse in 1979.
Dr. Gayle said that Lee’s family can be an inspiration to others to create new legacies and continue to pass the torch.
“It represents not only the Lee family, but other families that have a history and a legacy that they pass on to their children and to their children’s children,” said Dr. Gayle.
“Hopefully it’s a reminder that we are in process, and they’re part of the process,” said Tonya Lewis Lee, referring to current and future students.
Following the dedication ceremony, Spike and Tonya joined President Gayle for her inaugural broadcast of “Courageous Conversations: Black in the C-Suite” listening series.
The series was created to highlight stories of Black women in leadership. The conversation with the Lee family focuses on pathways to social and economic mobility, through health, wealth, and education equity and the power of an HBCU education.
This edition of Courageous Conversations will soon be available on Spelman’s website. Previous editions can be viewed here.