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Lee Robertson, affectionately known as 'Mr. Western,' dies at 102

Lee Robertson of Bowling Green has spent more than 50 years working at WKU in alumni and philanthropy.
Lisa Autry
Lee Robertson of Bowling Green has spent more than 50 years working at WKU in alumni and philanthropy.

Lee Robertson, a long-time member of the Western Kentucky University community and one of Kentucky’s last surviving soldiers of World War II has passed away at the age 102.

Robertson, affectionately known as “Mr. Western,” was a fixture of the Western Kentucky University community for decades. He graduated from the University in 1950 and served as Director of Alumni for 25 years.

In an email sent to university faculty and staff, Western Kentucky University recognized Robertson's impact on the campus.

"The WKU Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement team is sad to share of the passing of J. Lee Robertson (’50, ’57) on July 3, 2024," the statement said. "Affectionately known as “Mr. Western,” Robertson often referred to his 77 years on the Hill as a “love affair” with his alma mater."

Robertson grew up on a farm in Calhoun, a town in McLean County, before being drafted into the Army shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served as a driver in the 44th Tank Battalion during the second World War. He served from 1942-1945 and landed on beaches in New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Speaking to WKU Public Radio in 2022, Robertson was humble about his military service.

“Well old Tom Brokaw called us the greatest generation," Robertson said. “You know that might be; it might be selfish for me to promote that. But we didn't have much choice.”

In 1946 Robertson enrolled at WKU under the GI Bill and played baseball for the university. He later became the principal of Livermore High School in McLean County and superintendent of Barren County Schools. But eventually found his way back to The Hill and never left. Robertson reflected fondly of his time at WKU.

“The day I got to Western, something about it felt good and I said, ‘Man this is a good place to be, good place to work, good place to go to school,’” Robertson said. “It’s just been a big part of my life.”Memorial services are scheduled to take place later this month.

Jacob Martin is a Reporter at WKU Public Radio. He joined the newsroom from Kansas City, where he covered the city’s underserved communities and general assignments at NPR member station, KCUR. A Louisville native, he spent seven years living in Brooklyn, New York before moving back to Kentucky. Email him at Jacob.martin@wku.edu.