By Rich Huff '90
REMEMBERING RICH LEE 91
Rich Lee, a former Yale defensive lineman,
was lost in the World Trade Center tragedy on Sept. 11.
His teammate and college roommate had these reflections.
This is a combination of a short eulogy I delivered at his services, a short bio from his wife, Karen 90, and quotes culled from a large stack of messages Karen shared with me. I have eulogized him in my mind repeatedly since learning of his fate, and do so to this day. I have learned much about him from his friends from various stages of his life and career and I am continually amazed at the impact he had on others and the depth of emotion he inspired. It is my hope that this small memorial will provide the Yale community a better sense of the man that Rich Lee was.
Born on the 4th of July in Washington, D.C., Richard Y.C. Lee's life was
an example of the American dream and a personification of our national
values: strength, endurance, and hard work, tempered by kindness and generosity. Raised in Hawaii, Rich attended Punahou, where he excelled in academics,
sports, and music. 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.
Rich and I met at Yale as teammates on the football team and as members of Berkeley College, but I am not exactly sure how or when our friendship
developed. Like many of his relationships it formed naturally, owing to
his easy-going, unassuming nature. He stood by me in some of my darker moments and taught me more than I learned in the classroom. Some of you may have read about Rich in a recent Yale daily News article which catalogued some of the many things Rich did during his years at Yale: a student of International relations, studied the Russian language, played varsity football, formed a popular band, published a comic strip,
revitalized a snack bar in the Berkeley basement, and somehow convinced me that taking statistics in my final semester would be fun. An impressive list but certainly not an exhaustive one. Rich managed to do all of these things as the rest of us scrambled to figure out just how to make it through midterms.
It is easy to be impressed by this list and you will walk away with some appreciation for him, but one would not know the full measure of the man. It is my sincere belief that Rich did all of these things not for the accolades that surely followed. I'm sure that he took some pleasure in that, but his true joy seemed to come from the experience itself and the opportunity to share life's beauty with others - music for others to dance to, a gathering place for fellow students to hide from the damp of New Haven or their studies... It is said that Yale produces the best and the brightest, and Rich was the best of all of us.
Rich went on to a career in financial software. Rich routinely put in 14-hour work days and was the one person everyone turned to to get a seemingly impossible task done. He never lost sight of the people he worked with and was dedicated to the growth and development of every member of his team. He was a "natural born leader," "an inspiration,"and "gained your respect and admiration - and kept it - through his natural ability at his job and his extraordinary humanity." His managerial style was more akin to teaching and this helped his staff "to see things so that everything was possible and achievable." His guidance gave direction to people's careers and took them to places they did not imagine possible. His teachings were far more insightful however, as is clear from the following statement: "For the first time I see more clearly where my life will lead, and what I can do to direct it. And for that I must thanks Richard." In short, as more than one person wrote, "Rich was the best person I have had the honour of working with."
A childhood friend noted that this depth of character was evident early on in Rich's life. He wrote, "I wasn't Rich's best friend. It would just seem that way because of the supreme importance Rich seemed to place on all his interactions with other people. He was always deeply interested in how people thought and what they were doing, even if he disagreed completely with them."
As dedicated as he was to work, he was utterly devoted to his family and friends, especially Karen, 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 to his wife Karen each morning. The walls of his officewere papered with hundreds of photos of his 2-year-old son, Zachary, and adorned with his own humorous captions. He looked forward to his evenings with his family, reading aloud to Zachary and bathing him each night. In July, the Lee family moved into their dream home where they planned to have more children and spend their days together. Rich had thrown himself into woodworking, avidly building toy chests and bookshelves for his son's playroom.
As was often the case at Yale, I will turn to Rich now to lend me a hand. A friend recirculated a note Rich had penned after his father's passing. I would like to share a portion of that message with you all because believe that he provides the best insight into how he approached life.
"I always figured that it's a miracle that anyone is alive, and has consciousness, and free will; just the idea of life is incredible. I never forgot that - I always tell people that a wasted day is a crime against nature, because you never get that day back. You can always have more accomplishments, or more money, or more notoriety, or whatever but you can never get more time. You get what you get. And I'm glad that my dad had his time, and that I got to share that with him. I now know that wishing you had more time is a wasted wish, it misses the point. More time' is right now, and it's all there is."
I am truly grateful that Rich had his time and am honored that I have been
able to share it with him. This sentiment is shared by the countless
individuals who have flooded his wife, Karen, with messages of sympathyand thanks.
A trust has been established for the educational needs of Zachary Lee.
For more information about the trust and donations, please contact Lynne
Engelke at ZacharyLeeTrust@hotmail.com.