This past April, Dr. Hwa-Wei Lee, dean emeritus of Ohio University Libraries and a highly-respected international librarian, was recognized for his work when he was awarded the Medal of Appreciation by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand for his role in the rebuilding of the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) library.
Before his tenure at Ohio University, Lee was the founding director of the AIT library and regional information center in Thailand from 1968 to 1975.
“It was exactly 50 years ago,” said Lee. “I was recruited by the U.S. Agency for International Development to join a team of 12 American engineering professors and professionals traveling to Bangkok, Thailand for the purpose of establishing the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), a regional graduate school of engineering and technology.”
The project was an international initiative in which countries around the world joined forces to successfully establish an Asian graduate program in engineering and technology.
When Lee joined OHIO Libraries as the dean in 1978, the biggest challenge facing him was gaining membership to the prestigious Association of Research Libraries (ARL), which currently consists of 125 research libraries at institutions in Canada and the United States. In 1996, under Lee’s tenure, Ohio Libraries gained acceptance into ARL, where even today the organization confronts issues impacting higher education and scholarly communication.
Lee credits much of his professional development to his work at Alden Library under the leadership of President Charles J. Ping.
In the publication tilted, “A Conversation about Ohio University and the Presidency, 1975-1995,” President Emeritus Charles Ping said he was proud of two things during his tenure: being president when OHIO “achieved the formal status of being recognized as a research university;” and OHIO being recognized as one of the top 100+ research libraries in North America.
A sidelight to the Libraries’ receiving ARL status, said Ping, was Lee “introducing automation before it was commonplace in most university libraries.” This first-generation online system was later nicknamed “ALICE.”
During his 21-year tenure, Lee also expanded the Libraries’ standing as an internationally-connected institution with the International Librarians Internship Program, enabling librarians worldwide to discover more about OHIO librarian practices—and the founding of the Shao You-Bao Center for Overseas Chinese Documentation and Research inside Alden Library.”
Read more about Lee’s dedication to the advancement of librarianship.
In 2014, Lee also served on the International Advisory Committee for the Library Modernization Project under the honorary chair, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand. The committee headed the fundraising initiative to rebuild the AIT library, which was totally damaged when Thailand suffered devastating flooding and nearly two-thirds of the country was under water in 2011.
“The entire [AIT] campus, including its library, was inundated under two meters [6.5 ft.] of water for about two months,” said Lee. “[And] most of the library collections were damaged.”
In acknowledgement of the highly successful international fundraising relationships developed by the International Advisory Committee, Lee was recognized at the opening of the renovated AIT library.
“It was [such] a great honor that I was invited to participate in the official opening of the new modernized library, [which was held] on April 27, 2018—and to receive the Medal of Appreciation from Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand.”
From his legacy at OHIO Libraries to the many worldwide institutions he has guided and steered, Lee is unequaled in his dedication to the advancement of international libraries.
Photos courtesy of Dean Emeritus Hwa-Wei Lee