Born on the 4th of July in Washington DC, Rich Lees life was an example of the American dream and personification of our national values: strength, endurance, and hard work, tempered by kindness and generosity.
Raised in Hawaii, Rich attended Punahou (86) where he excelled at academics, sports and music. He went on to Yale (91) where he majored in political science concentrating on US-Soviet policy. At 64, 240lbs, an ex Punahou and Yale football player, his physical strength was visible to all, but his true strength lay in his compassion, intelligence, loyalty and determination to leave all he touched the better for his being there.
He was instantly likeable and fun to be around. Some of his many talents included playing bass guitar, singing and composing music in his bands in high school and college. While at Yale, he also found time to start a student snack bar, and to win forever the heart of his college sweetheart, Karen Engelke Lee (90) whom he married in 1992. He was a voracious reader with diverse interests from philosophy, mathematics and engineering to pop culture. His fascination with building and engineering solutions turned to software.
He went on to specialize in systems development for financial institutions such as Salomon Smith Barney, NatWest, Bankers Trust and Cantor Fitzgerald, where he was a managing director, most recently CIO of the Equities Technology division.
According to Mike Westlake, a co-worker from Cantor Fitzgerald/e-speeds UK office ,
Rich paid attention to detail, he documented processes and why they worked a certain way and built in reliability to his solutions. It was this attention to detail that ended up being one of his key legacies to eSpeed and Cantor Fitzgerald. Rich initially managed central development; covering middle, back office and financial systems, before changing roles to manage equities technology globally. Following the WTC disaster these applications were up and running to full capacity by the time the markets were back in action. Given the enormity of the disaster in both people and infrastructure terms this is an outstanding achievement which was only made possible due to the processes which Rich had been so influential in implementing.
A tireless worker who routinely put in 14 hr days, Rich was always the one people turned to to get a seemingly impossible task done. Rich never lost sight of the people he worked with and was dedicated to the growth and development of every member of his team. He strove to be the type of manager and mentor he would have wanted himself and to make a normally stressed work environment enjoyable. His hard work, humor, warmth, enthusiasm and up-beat nature inspired people to do their best while earning him the universal respect and admiration of his staff and peers.
As dedicated as he was to work, he was utterly devoted to his family and friends, especially his wife of over 9 years and their young son. Rich would call and e-mail home a dozen times a day, sending electronic greeting cards with his wonderful humor each morning. The walls of his office on the 104th floor of Cantor Fitzgerald/e-speed were papered with the hundreds of photos of his adored 22 month old son which his wife regularly e-mailed to him throughout the day. He looked forward to reading aloud to his little boy and bathing him each evening after work. He spent his free time lovingly creating video CDs documenting his sons growth, which he proudly sent out to his many friends and colleagues. Just 2 months ago, the young family moved into their dream home where they planned to have more children and grow old together. Rich had thrown himself into woodworking, avidly building toy chests and bookshelves for his sons playroom.
On September 11, as usual, Rich was at his desk before 6am, having already talked to his London office from home in the early hours of the morning. Just after the planes impact, he called his wife to calmly reassure her and ask her to give his cell phone # to emergency workers in his typical can-do manner hoping to lead his group to safety. However, when the police tried his cell phone 5 minutes later there was no answer. For those that knew him, the enormity of his loss is unbearable, but they know his spirit lives on through the tremendous impact he had on others and his lasting contributions to this world.