Get to know Pima Community College’s chancellor

By JORDAN COOK

During his six-year tenure as the chancellor of Pima Community College, Lee Lambert has amassed numerous awards and brought Pima to new heights through hard work, dedication and strong leadership.

 Lambert said that his work requires him to wear many hats, but the “mission ties it all together,” making his life hectic but with purpose.

 He prides himself on being a self-starter as well as someone who gets obsessive of the mission. This can also be a negative thing at times. 

“I always struggle with about how much flexibility to give to my staff,” Lambert said.

He knows that there is a fine line between getting what needs to get done and loosening the reins enough to let his staff learn and grow as workers. 

“I would love to see us go faster on certain initiatives,” Lambert said. “But I know that I cannot micromanage my staff as it will not allow them to develop time management skills and flourish through their failures as well as their success.”

 Leadership is essential to Lambert’s success, which is most evident when speaking with them directly.

 “He is a visionary leader,” said Lisa Brosky, vice chancellor of external relations. “He has the ability to inspire people around him.” 

Lambert said that his father was a humble farm boy from Greensboro, North Carolina, and that his mother was from war-torn South Korea. They met while his father was stationed there who in the Army. They fell in love, and when she found out she was pregnant, he said his father did the right thing in marrying her and bringing her back to the United States to raise their child together as a family. 

His father went to college over a long period of time and finally completed his degree. 

“My father instilled that college was important,” Lambert said. “There was a focus on being the best you can be.”

He attributed his father’s military service as the catalyst for the values that he was taught throughout his childhood. 

There was a time period where law and education were not the primary concern to a young Lambert. He was a high school athlete looking to defy all odds and play in the National Football League. He had scouts recruiting him to play for several collegiate programs, but one day that all came to a halt. 

During his senior season, he had a freak accident where he injured his left foot and fibula, forcing him to have three surgeries and effectively dashing his dream of playing football for a living.

 He realized a painful truth that day.

“You’re only as good as you have value to someone else,” he said. 

This was a critical moment in his life that made him look inward to find the strength to overcome the grief and physical pain as well as figure out what else he wanted to pursue in his life now that football was not an option. 

He did not sulk after his injury. Instead, it made him realize how much of a positive, optimistic and resilient person he was. 

Because of the injury and change of life direction, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and joined the Army at the age of 19. 

“I needed to figure out what to do with my life,” Lambert said. “It was the best decision of my life.”

His job in the Army was administration, but he was given on-the-job training to switch to legal, which eventually became his major and career launch point. 

“This was a major moment that is vivid to me and that changed my life,” Lambert said. 

He claimed that his injury and his time in the military were what helped him develop the confidence that guided him to the position of chancellor at Pima. 

He said that there was a difficult change that had to be made as he transitioned from football where his accomplishments were tangible versus commercial jobs where accomplishments were almost impossible to see.

“In football, I could measure my success,” said Lambert, who realized that in the commercial world you must rely on your internal values in order to do the right thing and have your own measures of personal success. 

Lambert cares deeply for his students, staff and community.

“I want to make a positive and meaningful difference in the lives of others,” he said. 

His aim was to help others, and he knew that those other things would come if he continued to follow his aspirations. 

This was recognized in March, when he received the Thomas L. Swanson Leadership Award for his contribution in enhancing the regional community despite often restrictive jurisdictional boundaries. This promotes cooperation and leadership for transportation, air quality and economic vitality in Tucson.

This award was given to Lambert because of his “relentless efforts” to improve the Tucson community, which falls right in line with his personal philosophy of “focusing on your why,” he said.

When asked about his personal goals for the future, he said he wants to focus on the equity agenda here in Tucson. He wants equality in education “regardless of sexual orientation or race, closing in on the equity gap.”

He sees moving Tucson out of the bottom quartile of this statistic as his personal metric of success as he moves forward.

Pima student Edgar Rodriguez is optimistic about Pima.

 “I do not know much about him personally, but I like the direction he is taking Pima Community College,” he said.

Jordan Cook is a student at Pima Community College.

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