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Alvin A. Lee Edit Profile

literary critic , President , vice-chancellor of

Alvin A. Lee , is a Canadian literary critic and former academic administrator.


Lee, Alvin A. was born on September 30, 1930 in Woodville, Ontario, Canada. Son of Norman Osborne and Susanna Elizabeth (Found) Lee.


Bachelor, University Toronto, 1953. Master of Arts in English, University Toronto, 1958. Doctor of Philosophy, University Toronto, 1961.

Master of Divinity, Victoria University, Toronto, 1957. Doctor Sacred Letters (honorary), Victoria University, 1986. Doctor of Letters (honorary), McMaster University, 1993.


The majority of his academic career—some 39 years—was spent at McMaster University in Hamilton. He served as President and vice-chancellor of that university from 1980 to 1990. He also served as Chairman of the Council of Ontario Universities.

The McMaster Museum of Art is housed in a building named in his honour because of his work acquiring extensive and valuable art collections for McMaster University. He received honorary doctorates from Victoria University in the University of Toronto, and from McMaster University, and was made an honorary professor at Beijing University, the University of Science and Technology Beijing, and Heilongjiang University. Lee holds B.A., M.A., M.Div., and Ph.D. degrees.

His academic interests lie in the fields of Old English literature, the Bible and literature, and literary theory. Lee served as the General Editor of the 30-volume Collected Works of Northrop Frye, being published by the University of Toronto Press (the final volume published in 2012). He has edited two volumes himself, including an annotated edition of Frye's The Great Code.

He also wrote the introduction to the Penguin Modern Classics editions of The Great Code and Words with Power. He is perhaps best known for his work on Beowulf: Gold-Hall and Earth-Dragon: Beowulf as Metaphor (University of Toronto Press). He has written articles, reviews and another book on Old English poetry, The Guest Hall of Eden: Four Essays on the Design of Old English Poetry (Yale University Press), and one on the Canadian poet and playwright, James Reaney.

He also edited several textbooks for Harcourt Brace: Circle of Stories: One, The Temple and the Ruin, The Garden and the Wilderness, and The Peacable Kingdom.



Trustee, member executive committee Chedoke-McMaster Hospitals, 1980-1990. Member Community Education Coordinating Committee, 1981-1990. Member Council Ontario Universities, 1980-1990, vice chairman, 1981-1983, chairman, 1983-1985, member executive committee, 1981-1987.

Member Health Sciences Liaison Committee, 1980-1990. Director Council Ontario University Holdings Ltd., 1981-1990. Member chancellors council Victoria University, University Toronto, since 1983.

Honorary board directors Operation Lifeline, Hamilton, 1980-1990. Honorary Patron Opera Hamilton, 1982-1990. Vice chairman board, member executive committee Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton, 1980-1990, chairman provincial and federal relations committee, 1981-1990, vice chairman science and educational committee, 1981-1990, member nominating committee, 1981-1990.

Vice chairman business advisory conference Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth, 1983-1990. Chairman fund-raising liaison committee McMaster Hospitals Found/McMaster University, 1983-1990. Honorary patron Education Foundation of Federation Chinese Canada Professionals, Ontario, 1984-1990.

Member, vice chair Canada Merit Scholarship Foundation, 1990-1993. Board directors Art Gallery Hamilton, 1991-1994. Member administration board McMaster Museum Art.

Member Modern Language Association, Mediaeval Academy American, Association Universities and Colleges Canada (council university president 1980-1990), Hamilton Association Advancement Literature, Science and Art (honorary president 1980-1988), Canada Institute Advanced Research, International Association Anglo-Saxonists, Corporate-Higher Education Forum, McMaster University Alumni Council (honorary president 1980-1990), McMaster University Letterman's Association (honorary), Hamilton and District Chamber of Commerce (director, member program committee 1982-1987, Hamilton Gallery of Distinction since 1996).


  • Other Interests

    Reading, travel, music, gardening, running.


Married Hope Arnott, December 21, 1957 (deceased). Children: Joanna, Monika, Fiona, Alison, Margaret.

Norman Osborne Lee

Susanna Elizabeth (Found) Lee

Hope Arnott

Joanna Lee

Monika Lee

Fiona Lee

Alison Lee

Margaret Lee