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Pang Lee

Year of Graduation: 
1993
Pang Lee and Kity Lee

Scholarship recipient knows "power of gifts."

When Pang Lee ’93 established the Kity and Pang Lee, Class of 1993, Scholarship Fund earlier this year, he drew his inspiration directly from the Academy’s Deed of Gift.

“John [and Elizabeth] Phillips decided to deed [their] land and fortune to create this thing that changed a lot of people’s lives, including mine,” Lee says. “I always knew it was a gift, and I never took it for granted.”

Lee’s permanent endowed fund aims to “advance this historic mission” by providing another source of financial aid for students in need. “Special consideration” is given to those who matriculate from New York City’s Prep for Prep, a program for academically gifted students of color that helps facilitate their enrollment in Northeast independent schools and provides leadership development and college guidance. Lee, himself a Prep for Prep scholar before Exeter, values how “youth of requisite qualification from every quarter,” as defined by the Phillipses, can shape the ethos of a school.

As written in Lee’s deed of gift, The Kity and Pang Lee, Class of 1993, Scholar will “contribute to the learning and growth at Exeter that arises from diversity in all its dimensions of its student body and faculty,” and ultimately “enhance the Exeter experience for all Exonians.”

Lee’s personal story begins in China. His parents met in the 1970s after separately escaping mainland China by swimming to Hong Kong. They sought asylum and then married; Pang was the first of their three children. The couple emigrated to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, working in the garment factories and restaurants of Chinatown. Growing up in a cramped, railroad-style tenement, where the bathtub was inconveniently and openly exposed to the kitchen, Lee’s primary motivation to attend Exeter over options closer to home was to have a room of his own and a proper private bathroom. Once on campus, however, it was the joy of being surrounded by peers who were unabashedly interested in learning that really motivated him. That propelled him to MIT and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Lee is now a Shanghai-based corporate lawyer and partner at Cooley, an international firm, with a practice in venture capital and other private investment funds. He and his wife, Kity, who also grew up on the Lower East Side, have already crossed the Pacific twice, arriving at their current home from California and, before that, Hong Kong and New York City. Their three young children attend the Shanghai American School while immersed in a fast-changing China, so different from the country their grandparents escaped. It is a balance that fascinates Lee, who observes that living abroad as an adult has strengthened his ties back to America and to the Academy.

“You can see the power and promise of America,” he says. “You can also see the power of gifts and the power of education, and how that really changes people’s lives. It’s transformative.”

“I always appreciated Exeter as a special place, but I didn’t fully realize how extraordinary the gift [I received] was until I traveled back to Hong Kong and China to fully understand how many talented people there are who aren’t afforded even a glimpse of the opportunities that I enjoyed,” he says. “This scholarship is our way to show gratitude and pay forward for future generations of young people, particularly those who may not have the means, to benefit from the Exeter experience.”

Lee’s eponymous fund is a significant contribution to an ongoing, vital tradition of alumni endowment support. Such generosity enables Exeter to continue welcoming “youth from every quarter.” This year alone, Exeter will award more than $21 million in tuition-based financial aid to nearly half of the student population.

“Exeter enables its students,” Lee says. “They feel that all kinds of possibilities are within reach.” Thanks to Lee’s gift, that opportunity is even greater.

—Sarah Zobel

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the spring 2019 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.