Dr. Amy Freeman Lee

Amy Freeman Lee, beloved artist, teacher and humanitarian passed away peacefully at Methodist Hospital San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday, July 20, in the company of loving friends.

Born to Julia Freeman and Joe Novich on Oct. 3, 1914 at Santa Rosa Hospital, she spent her early years in Seguin. After her mother's death in 1918, her grandmother, Emma Freeman, adopted her legally. In 1929 the family moved to San Antonio to enroll Amy in St. Mary's Hall.

Lee attended the University of Texas, and graduated from Incarnate Word College, where she went on to earn several degrees.

Born to a family with strong ranching roots, Amy was a skilled horsewoman, and under the tutelage of trainer Frank Heathman, she competed nationwide against equestrians including the young Jacqueline Kennedy. She broke her neck and back in separate riding accidents, yet never gave up her enthusiasm for horses. She took a principled opposition to circus, rodeo, bullfighting and other animal-based spectacle. But she was well skilled in ranch management, having helped run the extensive Freeman family holdings. She also counted the late Mary Nan West among her closest friends.

Dr. Lee's profound reverence for life was the guiding principle in her distinguished career as artist, educator and humanitarian. Although she was married for three years to Ernest Lee, an aide to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower during World War II, Lee had no children of her own. But as a teacher and humanitarian she touched the life of innumerable people, young and old alike. A Quaker by choice, she described her spiritual convictions as based in the concept of reverence for the unity of life.

An internationally acclaimed artist, she had more than 1, 250 exhibitions of her work, from Maine, where she summered for years at Ogunquit to Monterrey, Mexico, where she developed many lifelong friends. She supported many literacy efforts and was a champion of the liberal arts. She was an honorary member of the advisory committee of International Peace University of Berlin and Potsdam, Germany.

She fought against racism and discrimination from her earliest years, and was among the staunch supporters of another young activist, Emma Tenayuca, during the notorious pecan shellers' strike in San Antonio. In recent years, she made many presentations on San Antonio's history with two close friends, Fay Sinkin and Helen Jacobson, who were among her allies in the struggle for racial and social equality in San Antonio. She was appointed by the Supreme Court of Texas to serve on the Grievance Oversight Committee, Lawyer Discipline Commission and was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism where she earned the reputation of “Maximum Lee”.

She played on the San Antonio Wolverines softball team with former mayor Maury Maverick, restaurateur-activist Mario Cantu and other political activists, and remained deeply concerned with American politics throughout her life.

One of the principal founders of the San Antonio Symphony, Lee also nurtured a passion for chamber music, and supported many musical organizations. Early exposure to the arts on family trips to museums and the theater in New York left her with a lifelong passion for all music. She was an avid ballroom dancer, and she often said her one unfulfilled ambition was to sing torch music with a jazz band.

But her life was spent in service to the arts, education and humanitarianism. In literally thousands of public lectures, she routinely credited her grandmother for instilling in her an abiding commitment to give back to others the gifts she received early in life. She was a prodigal artist, art critic, poet writer and philanthropist, and numbered many distinguished artists among her close friends, including painter Kelly Fearing and essayist Loren Eisley, whose parable "The Star Thrower" she often cited in lectures and written work. An early supporter of the Witte Museum, she was a founder of the San Antonio Art League, and later of the Texas Watercolor Society. She was a charter member of the University of Texas College of Fine Arts Council. She amassed a superb collection of art by many of the leading contemporary artists of her day, and made important donations to the McNay, the San Antonio Museum of Arts and other museums. This spring, she was honored by the Museum of Art for her many contributions to the visual arts.

For many years she was the lay member and was given honorary member status of the Texas Society of Architects. She was also involved in the Texas A&M School of Architecture. Further, she was honored by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University.

Beginning in the 50s, Lee served as a member of Incarnate Word College’s Fine Arts Advisory Council. In 1973 she assumed the Presidency of the Board of Trustees of the college, a position which she filled until 1990. During that time, she nurtured the college's theater, music and arts programs, even living for some years in the dorms, despite owning several homes here. She also spent many years as Chairman of the Board of the Houston-based Wilhelm Schole International, created by her dear friend Dr. Marilyn Wilhelm, and continued in that capacity to support the Wilhelm Schole International Teacher Training Institute.

She also was deeply involved with the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind, and funded scholarship awards there in addition to serving on the board. She was a strong advocate of the Bexar County Humane Society, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation and John Karger's Last Chance Forever refuge for injured birds of prey. She was also a member of the International Women's Forum, the University Round Table and many other organizations.

Although her life was lived largely in San Antonio, Lee traveled widely by car and rail for many years, most recently as a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society of the United States, which conferred it's highest honor, the Joseph Wood Krutch Medal, on her in 1985, the same year she was the subject of the inspirational “Reality is Becoming”, a CBS documentary on her life and accomplishments.

In addition to the Krutch medal, her most treasured honors included the American Civil Liberties Union's Maury Maverick Award, a lifetime achievement award from the University Roundtable and the Imperishable Star Award, a lifetime honor conveyed by Wilhelm Schole International. She received the first Living Treasure of San Antonio Award for Outstanding Achievement as Artist, Scholar, Humanist presented by the Center for Peace Through Culture. The Woman That Makes a Difference Award presented by the International Women’s Forum in New York. She was elected to Texas Woman’s Hall of Fame by the Governor's Texas Commission for Women.

While her creativity and intellectual prowess put her in the midst of many notable artists, writers and statesmen, she remained in touch with friends and admirers from all walks of life. A well-trained critic, she wrote for the Express-News and had a radio show on KONO for years. But her most influential outreach consisted in the literally thousands of lectures she delivered to groups throughout the nation, sometimes driving as far as New York or California to deliver lectures that invariably stressed her belief in the importance of civility, humane ethics and universal love. Her self-deprecating humor and razor wit contributed to the effectiveness of her presentation, and she remained among the most popular speakers in the state, even when bouts of illness slowed her pace in recent years.

She is survived by her foster daughter, Marilyn Wilhelm; her god-daughter Carol Karotkin; second cousin, Maxine “Jackie” Goodwin and many, many dear fri

Schole International. She received the first Living Treasure of San Antonio Award for Outstanding Achievement as Artist, Scholar, Humanist presented by the Center for Peace Through Culture. The Woman That Makes a Difference Award presented by the International Women’s Forum in New York. She was elected to Texas Woman’s Hall of Fame by the Governor’s Texas Commission for Women.

While her creativity and intellectual prowess put her in the midst of many notable artists, writers and statesmen, she remained in touch with friends and admirers from all walks of life. A well-trained critic, she wrote for the Express-News and had a radio show on KONO for years. But her most influential outreach consisted in the literally thousands of lectures she delivered to groups throughout the nation, sometimes driving as far as New York or California to deliver lectures that invariably stressed her belief in the importance of civility, humane ethics and universal love. Her self-deprecating humor and razor wit contributed to the effectiveness of her presentation, and she remained among the most popular speakers in the state, even when bouts of illness slowed her pace in recent years.

She is survived by her foster daughter, Marilyn Wilhelm; her god-daughter Carol Karotkin; second cousin, Maxine “Jackie” Goodwin and many, many dear friends and admirers who will never forget her characteristic sign-off: "I'm loving you."

ends and admirers who will never forget her characteristic sign-off: "I'm loving you."