Thanks to the generosity of Diane Lee Eriksson ’77, her husband Larry Eriksson and their family, students majoring in elementary education and early childhood development will benefit from the newly created L.A. Lee Family Endowed Scholarship. The Eriksson’s goal is to assist students by allowing them to focus on their education and become the best teachers possible without the worry of student debt.

The Erikssons’ $1 million gift honors the memory of Lee Eriksson’s late husband, Lynnwood Arthur Lee ’78— to whom she was married to for 40 years before his death in 2009.

Lee earned a bachelor’s in economics from UCF and worked in telecommunications for more than 30 years. He often served as a volunteer at his alma mater, Lyman High School, in Seminole County.

“Teaching and learning were always in the forefront for him,” says Lee Eriksson, who earned a bachelor’s in elementary education from UCF and taught first and second grade for 31 years at Longwood Elementary School. “After he passed away, I knew I had to do something in his honor.”

Upon learning about the newly launched UCF Challenge— a program the university launched in 2021 to co-invest with donors who give to several key areas, such as student success and scholars’ programs — Lee Eriksson knew the time was right for the gift. The co-investment brings the total of Eriksson’s gift to $2 million.

“I am over-the-top excited with this [opportunity] that came about this year,” she says. “I look forward to the blessings that it’s going to afford so many beginning teachers and the students they serve.”

Curtis Proctor ’06 ’07MA ’12EdD, director of Advancement for CCIE, says UCF is one of the largest producers of teachers in the state and he believes the gift will create a ripple effect that will impact generations of future educators.

“For every teacher we produce, those teachers will impact the lives of many more students each year,” Proctor says. “The students who receive this scholarship will be among the best and brightest educators in the state. As they go into their careers as elementary education teachers, we hope that they will take their passion for teaching and pour it into educating our youth for many years to come.”

Lee Eriksson says she’s also excited about the opportunities that the scholarship will create for students, and her dream is that future teachers are able to graduate without student debt.

“Lee loved helping others and encouraging them to succeed,” she says. “A good teacher can make a big difference in students’ lives, and the opportunities this will afford teachers and students in our community is very important to us.”

Her children, Chris Lee and Jenny Lee Demetree, say their father came from a line of educators, and education was always prioritized in their home growing up.

“Dad always had a way of finding solutions to a problem and helping people,” they say. “Now, we can do that together.”