Lees–McRae College

Coordinates: 36°09′44″N 81°52′33″W / 36.1621°N 81.8757°W / 36.1621; -81.8757
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Lees–McRae College
Former name
The Elizabeth McRae Institute (1900–1903)
The Elizabeth McRae–Suzanna Lees Institute (1903–1907)
The Lees–McRae Institute (1907–1931)
MottoIn Montibus, Ex Montibus, Pro Montibus (Latin)
Motto in English
In the mountains, of the mountains, for the mountains
TypePrivate college
Established1900; 124 years ago (1900)
Religious affiliation
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Endowment$35 million[1]
PresidentH. Lee King
ProvostAlyson Gill
Academic staff
62 full-time and 54 part-time[2]
Students855 (fall 2022)[3]

36°09′44″N 81°52′33″W / 36.1621°N 81.8757°W / 36.1621; -81.8757
CampusRural, 400 acres (160 ha)
Colors Green & gold[4]
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division II
MascotWily the Bobcat

Lees–McRae College is a private college in Banner Elk, North Carolina, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Lees–McRae College sits in the Appalachian Mountains at 3,720 feet (1,130 m) above sea level,[5] the highest elevation of any American college or university east of the Mississippi River.[6] It is one of the few colleges to be named after two women, Suzanna Lees and Elizabeth McRae.[citation needed]


Lees–McRae College was founded in Banner Elk as an all-female high school in 1899 by the Reverend Edgar Tufts, a Presbyterian minister. He named the school The Elizabeth McRae Institute after a well-respected educator in 1900. The name of school benefactor Suzanna Lees was added in 1903, and the school became The Lees–McRae Institute when it was chartered by the state in 1907.[citation needed]

An all-male branch was founded in 1907 in nearby Plumtree, North Carolina. The Plumtree facility was destroyed in a 1927 fire, leading the two campuses to merge at the Banner Elk site. After the merger, the high school program was phased out, and in 1931 the institute was renamed Lees–McRae College as an accredited, coeducational junior college.[citation needed]

Lees–McRae began moving toward offering a four-year program in the late 1980s, and the school's president made the recommendation to the board of trustees in 1987.[7] The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granted Lees–McRae status as a four-year college in 1990. In 2005, Lees–McRae became the first expansion site for New Opportunity School for Women, a program that helps educate and employ women in Appalachia.[8]


Official athletics logo.

The Lees–McRae Bobcats compete in NCAA Division II as a member of Conference Carolinas. All athletic teams are eligible for athletic scholarships. The college is also home to a cycling team, which competes in Division I and holds national championships. The varsity sports teams are listed below.[citation needed]

Men's sports[edit]

  • Basketball
  • Cross county
  • Cycling
  • Lacrosse
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Track and field
  • Volleyball
  • Cheerleading
  • Swimming

Women's sports[edit]

  • Basketball
  • Cross county
  • Cycling
  • Lacrosse
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Tennis
  • Track and field
  • Volleyball
  • Cheerleading
  • Swimming

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "Lees–McRae College - College Overview". Petersons. 2007-03-09. Retrieved 2022-08-28.
  2. ^ "College Navigator - Lees–McRae College".
  3. ^ "College Navigator - Lees–McRae College".
  4. ^ Lees-McRae College: Communications: Publication Guidelines. Retrieved on 2007-07-09.
  5. ^ Geographic Names Information System Feature Detail Report, U.S. Geological Survey, 1980-06-17, retrieved 2007-07-09
  6. ^ "Lees-McRae College". Bonner Program Campus Contacts. The Bonner Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-10-07. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  7. ^ Kelley, Pam (1987-03-20), "Lees–McRae Might Convert To 4-Year College", The Charlotte Observer, p. 1C
  8. ^ "Program At Lees–McRae College To Provide New Opportunities To Women In Need", The Mountain Times, 2005-01-13, retrieved 2007-07-09
  9. ^ "Hall of Champions". Retrieved 9 September 2023.

External links[edit]