Rich Lee

A decade and a half, or thereabouts, have passed since I last saw Rich, but I can close my eyes and see him clearly in my mind's eye, fixed in his late teens, an upbeat, confident young man with a big grin and a readiness to take on the world.


I suppose I must have met Rich formally about seven hundred and seventy-two times over the four years he was in my homeroom and the one semester when he took my Humanities class. Then there were the countless times I ran into him on campus, or when he dropped by my office for a chat, never a long one, for he was always off in pursuit of something, active, vigorous, eager to pack into each day its full freight of possibilities.


The Humanities course was made for people like Rich. We discussed the "great ideas' of Western philosophy: truth, goodness, beauty, freedom, equality, justice. I remember the spirit with which he spoke in discussions such as, 'Why does truth matter?' 'What is the good life?' 'Do we really want justice?' A pragmatist at heart, he never lacked an opinion, but he was unfailingly courteous to others who thought differently. It was at this time, I think, that to my liking for Rich was added respect, respect for his personal, intellectual, and academic integrity. But there was another dimension: he was excited by ideas; he didn't just tolerate them or merely find them interesting; they came to possess him as much as he possessed them, and the alchemy was exhilarating.


So, when college acceptances came around, and Rich was accepted by Yale, I wasn't in the least surprised at his choice of a university or of its acceptance of him. He dropped by to see me once when he came back to Punahou for a visit, and then he was gone, away into the world that swallows up our students, who prosper in their adult lives, leaving us to feel a vicarious sense of satisfaction in their success.


But students leave a little of themselves behind at their school, and with their teachers and it is a tribute to his memorable personality that, I so vividly remember Rich as a wholly decent, pleasant, affable youngster who was eager and ready to take on the challenges of life as an adult. From what I have heard of him-as a professional man, as a husband, and as a father- he met or exceeded all reasonable expectations. I salute his memory and deeply regret his passing.


--Bill Messer

Former Homeroom and English Teacher