KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A tree has been planted on Roane State Community College‘s campus in memory of a professor who died earlier this year.

Faculty members planted a sapling in front of the Coffey/McNally Building in memory of Dr. Arthur Lee on November 4. He had been a geology professor at the college since 2000 before his death in February.

Roane State President Chris Whaley said Lee was “one of the smartest people I’ve ever known,” during a brief ceremony.

“He loved interacting with his students,” said Dr. Sylvia Pastor. Lee was her mentor in the process of securing tenure, said Pastor, an assistant professor.

During his tenure, he made several contributions to the school and the community. These contributions include the “Lab-in-a-Box” program he created alongside Pastor. This program offered a hands-on approach for middle school students in the area. Lee also went to the Morgan County Correctional Complex twice a week to teach inmates.

“He always had a smile on his face,” Assistant Professor Connie Blalock said. “I miss him a lot.” Blalock’s office next door to Lee’s and she shared that he was the first faculty member to welcome her.

“He really made me feel I was part of this college,” Associate Professor Ted Stryk said. “He was extremely knowledgeable but also not intimidating.”

A recording of the tree planting ceremony can be watched on Roane State’s YouTube channel. The college shared that years from now the tulip poplar tree will serve as a lasting symbol of Lee’s legacy.

Earlier this year, Roane State created a scholarship in memory of Lee. The college’s president said the scholarship will help Lee’s memory live on at Roane State. Donations to the scholarship can be made online at or mailed to Roane State Foundation, 276 Patton Lane, Harriman, TN 37748.