St. Louis philanthropist E. Desmond Lee was known for his commitment to building a better St. Louis. The Des Lee Collaborative Vision utilizes university resources and collaborates with community outreach programs in order to make a positive impact on the St. Louis community.


The Des Lee Collaborative Vision (otherwise known as the DLCV) consists of a network of partnerships between endowed professors and community organizations. There are 35 professorships, 30 of which are at UMSL, four at Washington University and one at St. Louis University.

We are creating a shared vision of how we can make our community a better place through our work and outreach,” said Patricia Zahn, who has been director of the DLCV since November of 2010. “We are able to come together as a community of scholars to recognize, support, and even challenge ourselves in our efforts. I am very proud to be a part of this work and to offer opportunities for us to come together and create new synergies.”

Endowed professors divide their time equally between scholarly responsibilities and their work within the community partnerships they maintain. With such a large number of professorships, there are many efforts and initiatives taking place each year in the St. Louis community.

Dr. Patricia Kopetz holds the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professorship of Education of Children with Disabilities and is the director of the College of Education’s Center for the Research and Study of Disability, Education, and Culture (CRSDEC). It is through the CRSDEC that she does much of her work with the community. The Center sponsors Project SEARCH, though the project is funded largely by the Epworth School and Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. As part of the project, a class of autistic high school students from Webster Grove’s Epworth School meets on UMSL’s south campus to receive instruction from UMSL College of Education faculty and graduate students, in addition to their own special educators. The focus is on graduation and post-school employment.

Dr. Kopetz also works closely with Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis. The CRSDEC aids in the development of programs and activities that, according to Kopetz’s estimate, benefit over 24,000 families containing children with significant limitations. During last summer’s Variety Adventure Camp, graduate students of the CRSDEC conducted research that enabled them to use iPad technology to teach communication skills to nonverbal children at the weekly camp programs.

E. Wendy Saul is the Allen B. and Helen S. Shopmaker Endowed Professor of Education and International Studies in Collaboration with Springboard to Learning, the St. Louis region’s largest provider of in-school arts and cultural integration and enrichment programs.

Dr. Saul says her strengths are generating ideas and analyzing what does and doesn’t work in particular contexts. She utilizes those strengths in her work with Springboard. She helps to create a formal relationship between Springboard and the International Studies Program Outreach Library. Located on campus, the International Studies Program Outreach Library builds and lends out kits whose purpose Saul describes as fostering global understanding through hands-on, minds-on learning. Springboard offers those kits to schools and provides feedback on what works well in the classrooms, exemplifying a relationship that Dr. Saul describes as being “truly a win-win.”

I believe in (the DLCV’s) mission – in the importance of, in Des’s words, ‘leveling the playing field,’ and in the role of the university to help better our collective community,” said Dr. Saul.

Since its establishment in 1996, the DLCV has partnered with such institutions as the Missouri Historical Society, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri Botanical Garden and many others. The DLCV currently works with over 100 partner organizations and includes professorships in music, nursing, zoology, museum studies, public policy and more.