Heath Hardage Lee

Heath Hardage Lee
  • Class of: Grad ’95 (M.A. French Language and Literature; Curry School of Education, teaching certification)
  • Hometown: Richmond, VA
  • Current City: Roanoke, VA
  • Current Job: Writer, most recently as author of The League of Wives, and independent museum curator and historian
  • Bodo’s Order: I lived almost entirely off Bodo’s bagels and cereal most of the time I was at UVA. Either hummus on whole wheat bagel or smoked salmon with Bodo’s awesome cream cheese
  • Favorite Charlottesville Spot: Scarpa (especially when things are on sale!)

Tell us about your UVA experience.

I attended UVA for three years, two for my master’s degree in French language and literature and one for my teaching certificate from the Curry School of Education. I began teaching right after graduation and did that for three years, then moved to Charlotte, NC, with my husband for his work. While we lived there, I worked at the Levine Museum of the New South, a civil rights museum, as their Education and Programs Director. What really set me apart there as an applicant was not only my degree, but also where it came from.

We moved back to Richmond and I had a grant writing business for a time, and after more life we moved to Des Moines, where I started writing full-time. And then four years ago, we moved to Roanoke, Virginia!

What makes you say Wahoowa?

I can’t say sports do, because I don’t understand what’s going on. . .ever. I think what really makes me say “Wahoowa” is the fall colors and leaves during that season. Charlottesville and UVA are so gorgeous in the autumn and it makes me feel nostalgic.

What does it mean to be a Wahoo?

It means honor code and it means history. I think of being tied to the history of UVA, of Charlottesville and of Jefferson. I also think of the smaller and more intimate environment and teacher-student relationship that’s prevalent in the graduate school.

How do you stay connected to UVA?

I do go to The Festival of the Book, concerts, relevant town events, all that. I have casual interactions with other Wahoos all the time and it’s always very positive. The “wahoo pull” is really evident in Richmond and you’ll see other Wahoos out in the wild there, but not so much in Roanoke, because that’s Hokie territory. Even though we live in Roanoke, I come back to visit Charlottesville fairly often.

What’s something you learned at UVA that you apply to your everyday life?

Being at UVA as a grad student in a much larger university environment, I learned how to interact with all different kinds of people from many different parts of the country and the world. I also learned a lot while working at the Bayly Art Museum about visitor experience, which helped me later in my museum career.

What’s your favorite UVA memory?

I have really great memories of attending the Med School Ball, which was a costume party. My friends and I all dressed up in costumes and had so much fun—we stayed out all night and traipsed the Lawn after midnight.

While I was at UVA, I was the house mother for Theta, which was a great experience that could fill up a whole book on its own—as house mother, I ran the place, took care of food, looked after the girls, all that. Truly never a dull moment!

What was it like to have your book picked up to be a movie by Reese Witherspoon’s production company?

I totally freaked out when I got that call! It was even more special because of how topical the story is in our current climate. Plus, I’m on it as an executive producer, which was important to ensure that the film stayed in line with what I originally wrote.