Professor Emerita Marcella Lee ’48, 1926-2022

Marcella Adelaide Lee ’48, Cornell College professor emerita of music, died March 12, 2022, in Holland, Michigan, at the age of 96. 

Professor Emerita of Music Marcella Lee '48
Professor Emerita of Music Marcella Lee ’48

At Cornell she was one of the few women faculty members and department chairs of her era. She founded the Messiah Sing-Along, directing 20 of its subsequent performances that attracted hundreds of singers to King Chapel to participate in the annual production.

Lee earned her bachelor of music education degree from Cornell and a master’s in music from Syracuse University. Her career took her from teaching music in the public schools to teaching voice and music fundamentals at the University of Minnesota (1959–68) to her professorship at Cornell (1968–1991). While she was singing professionally, she was a lead in three operettas produced by the Guthrie Theater, she sang with a touring company of “Damn Yankees,” and was the soprano soloist in a Robert Shaw Chorale production of “The Messiah.”

Early professional photo of Marcella Lee '48.
Early professional photo of Marcella Lee ’48.

She directed numerous church choirs, which gave her the opportunity to do what she loved best: create a shared musical experience with others.

In retirement she moved to Holland, Michigan, and made the most of the local cultural offerings. She continued to write music and theater reviews and exhibit show dogs, first Westies, then Havanese. She was the Class Agent for the Cornell Class of 1948 and organized a successful 50th reunion class gift for the renovation of the King Chapel organ. 

She is survived by her daughter, April, and two granddaughters.

Her family obituary included this information about her childhood and her retirement years:

Marcella was born Jan. 13, 1926, in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where she had an idyllic small-town childhood with her physician father, Dr. William Andrew Lee, her beloved choir director mother, Lucy Logan Moses, and her older brother, Gordon E. Lee. When her father passed away before she graduated from high school, Marcella and Lucy moved into the basement of their home and took in boarders to make ends meet, later selling the house and moving into a small bungalow to fund Marcella’s college. Perhaps it was that early experience that imbued in her the strong will and perseverance that helped her live a very full life.

Marcella Lee's junior year photo in the Royal Purple yearbook.
Marcella Lee’s junior year photo in the Royal Purple yearbook.

… After retiring, she moved to Holland, Michigan, to be closer to friends and family. She made the most of the local cultural offerings and welcoming community, enjoying the intellectual discourse of HASP programs and book clubs, singing in the Third Reformed Church and Holland Chorale choirs, attending concerts, and founding the Piano Group, which gave amateur pianists the opportunity to prepare and perform pieces in a supportive and friendly setting. In Holland, Marcella was always grateful for the support from her friend Emily Young, especially for the loving care she gave her dogs.

Marcella loved to share laughter and lively discussion about current events, travel, performances, books, and politics with friends and family, especially if accompanied by appetizers and a bourbon and water. Cocktail hours spent with Jane and Neil Wylie, over the course of 50 years, were treasured. Marcella’s joie de vivre will be remembered by her daughter April (John) Scholtz, treasured granddaughters Sophie and Elinor Scholtz, sister-in-law Amy Lee, nephews Bill, Dave, and Ric Lee, niece Ann Gorrisssen, and a wide circle of friends.