February 25, 2015
Michael Lee (L ’94) explains a fundraising challenge to Class of 1994 members at their 20th reunion in November, with Dean David Meyer, host Andy Wisdom (L ’94) and Tulane University President Michael Fitts taking part.
Photo by Tracie Morris Schaefer
Despite two Tulane degrees in electrical engineering, Michael S. Lee (E ’86, G ’88, L ’94) only spent a couple of years working in that field.
He returned to Tulane in 1991, this time to the law school, and in the 20 years since graduating has handled intellectual property litigation, helped found a firm focusing on tax and estate-planning law and worked as a tax attorney/certified financial planner as a partner at William Blair in Chicago. Now, he’s a director in the Chicago office of Abbot Downing, the ultra-high net worth wealth management group of Wells Fargo.
Lee said he sees a theme in his meandering path: “I really like building things and the challenges that come with it,” he said. "For me, these have all been opportunities to build or grow."
It also ties back to his time on campus. “The goal of Tulane for its students has always been to develop a lifetime love of learning. For me that played out,” he said. “What was really helpful in being able to make all these transitions was the education I received at Tulane, but more than that, the ability to learn and to think.”
Lee and his family have made multiple gifts to ensure that ongoing generations of students can focus on learning and not on how they’ll pay the bills. Now, Lee and his mother, Ming Chwen Wang Lee, have established the Lee Family Scholarship in Law in celebration of his 20th Tulane Law reunion. The endowed scholarship is designed to assist law students with a science or engineering background and a demonstrated commitment to community service.
Michael Lee said his parents came to the United States to pursue education (his mother from Taiwan, his father from China), and the family has long believed in supporting students. At Tulane, the family has endowed the Lee Wang Family Scholarship in Engineering and in 1994 donated funds for a law school classroom named in memory of Lee’s grandfather, Chin-Hai Wang, a respected banker and businessman in Taiwan.
“As the Lee Family, we thought this was a good time to show our support of (Dean) David Meyer and the law school,” Lee said. “The Lee Family has a strong commitment to providing access to education at Tulane.”
Lee also helped cook up a surprise for members of Tulane Law’s Class of 1994. When they gathered at the New Orleans home of investment management consultant Andy Wisdom in November for their reunion, Lee and Wisdom issued a fundraising challenge: each pledged to donate $5,000 if their former classmates collectively contributed $5,000. The effort raised a total of $21,195 in support of the Tulane Law Fund.
Lee said that in revisiting campus and reuniting with friends, he reflected on how Tulane Law helped prepare him and broaden his view of the world.
Because his classmates came from diverse backgrounds, he said, “law school gave me the opportunity to learn to understand and appreciate other perspectives.”
Tulane’s pro bono program also had a big impact. Lee started law school just three years after Dean John Kramer had led Tulane to pioneer a pro bono requirement as part of the curriculum.
“It really challenged me to look at what else was going on in the community,” Lee said, “and to become aware and sensitive to the challenges people face on a daily basis.”
His current volunteer involvement includes sitting on the Tulane School of Science and Engineering Board of Advisors, the Board of Directors for North Lawndale College Prep School in Chicago and the Professional Advisors Board for Northwestern Memorial Hospital.