Lee Williams Recognized by IU’s Office of the Vice President for International Affairs

On February 22, 2018, Lotus Education & Arts Foundation founder Lee Williams received the Indiana University Office of the Vice President of International Affairs‘ Distinguished International Service Award in recognition of his outstanding service to the international mission of Indiana University.

Remarks kindly provided by Shawn Reynolds, who presented the award on behalf of IU’s OVPIA:


I am very pleased to be here today to honor Lee Williams, the founder of the Lotus Education and Arts Foundation. The Foundation’s flagship program is the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival. Established in 1994, the Festival is one of the oldest world music festivals in the U.S. and the only festival of its kind in the state of Indiana. It attracts more than 12,000 people to downtown Bloomington annually each fall, for 4-5 days of music and arts from around the globe. Since its inception, the Foundation has presented artists from 120+ countries.

In addition, the annual spring Lotus Blossoms brings a diverse array of performers to schools across south central Indiana. By last count over 140,000 students.

In a world where some would define us by walls and differences it is a welcome celebration of the global community we live in.

Through the festival and Blossoms Lee and Lotus has touched thousands of people.

The vison of the late, great Hermann Wells was that IU would be a place that brought the world to Indiana and also brought Indiana University to the world. That global vision permeates the teaching, research and service of the university. Area studies centers representing every major region of the world, over 70 foreign languages taught, 14% of the students on our Bloomington campus are international, and over 25% of our Bloomington undergraduates study abroad. It’s part of the DNA of who we are as a university.

Over the 20 year history of the festival Lee Williams has worked closely with multiple academic and student groups across the IU Bloomington campus to arrange workshops, concerts, educational outreach events that engage the university’s faculty, students and the general public. Lee Williams has also collaborated closely with Indiana University and IU’s area studies centers on Lotus Blossoms for educational outreach. In much the way Indiana University helps bring the world to Indiana, Lotus Blossoms has brought performers from around the world to thousands of schoolchildren across Indiana for a unique educational experience.

Lee Williams and Lotus has been an incredible partner for Indiana University.

Finally, I would like to make some personal comments about Lee. When Pam and I came back to Bloomington in 1997, we were both very impressed by Lotus. I remember sitting and thinking at one of the 1997 festival settings that after all of the travelling we had done this was the festival and the community we were looking for. As I served on the Lotus board for six years, I got to know Lee.  I consider Lee not only a friend, but a personal hero.

He had the vision, drive and persistence to make Lotus into one of the institutions that define and exemplify what we are as a community and a university. And he brought all of us here in this room, in Bloomington and at IU along to help. Lotus would not have lasted for 20 years and hopefully many more if Lee had not worked collaboratively and infused that spirit of collaboration through Lotus.

So on behalf of Indiana University Office of the Vice President for International Affairs I am very pleased to present you with the Distinguished International Service Award in recognition of outstanding service to the international mission of Indiana University.

Shawn Reynolds, Lee Williams, Sunni Fass



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