Lee Seng Gee
Lee Seng Gee (b. 25 June 1921, Singapore–d. 10 May 2016, Singapore), longstanding chairman of the Lee Foundation and the Lee Rubber Group, was known for his many charitable and philanthropic contributions towards education, the underprivileged and the arts. He continued the legacy of giving set by his father, Lee Kong Chian, and his maternal grandfather, Tan Kah Kee.
The eldest of five children, Lee began his education at the age of four-and-a-half at Sin Chew Kindergarten in Tanjong Pagar. He then enrolled into two primary schools because his parents wanted to him to have a bilingual education. He attended the Anglo Chinese Primary School, an English-medium school, in the morning, followed by the Tao Nan School, a Chinese-medium school, in the afternoon. This practice continued through to his secondary school days when he studied at the Anglo Chinese School, and the Industrial and Commercial Continuation School. As a student, he helped in raising funds for the China Relief Fund, a war effort headed by his grandfather, Tan Kah Kee, that supported China's resistance against Japan.
In 1939, Lee travelled to the United States at the age of 18 to read economics at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 1943. He then obtained a Master in Business Administration degree from the Wharton Business School in 1944. In the same year, he married his first wife, the late Lora Tong, with whom he had four children. Tong was the daughter of the first prime minister of the Republic of China, Tang Shao-yi. Lee was in the midst of his doctorate programme when he was called back to Singapore in 1946 to rebuild the family business after the war.
Lee took on more responsibilities when his father shifted his attention to the work of the Lee Foundation which he established in 1952. In 1955, Lee was placed in charge of the Lee Group's Indonesian companies. Ten years later, he took over the reins as chairman and chief executive officer of the entire Lee Group.
Success in business
To earn the trust of his staff, Lee adopted a non-forceful and persuasive management style when he first returned from the United States. He decided then to abandon the American style of management for a more conciliatory approach. With the long-serving staff, he did not impose his views but rather explained the benefits of his proposed changes and allowed the managers to decide. However with new and younger staff, he was firm with his decisions.
The generosity of the foundation has earned them many accolades such as the Distinguished Patron of the Arts Award by the National Arts Council for several years, and the National Volunteerism and Philanthropy Award Special Recognition Award in 2004.
Lee received many awards in his lifetime. In 1992, he was awarded the Public Service Star, and in the following year, he received the Ee Peng Liang award by the National Council of Social Services for his philanthropic efforts. He was also conferred an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the National University of Singapore in 2002. He earned the Credit Suisse-Ernst & Young Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 for his success as a pioneering entrepreneur.
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(Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN)
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Lee Foundation wins the first Ee Peng Liang award. (1993, Feb 16). The Straits Times. Retrieved on March 1, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
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Major donor avoids the limelight. (2007, Aug 9). The Straits Times. Retrieved January 8, 2009, from Factiva database.
NAC invites more private sponsors for the arts. (2007, October 3). Business Times Singapore. Retrieved January 8, 2009, from Factiva database.
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Quah, I. (Interviewer). (1996, July 12). Oral history interview with Lee Seng Gee (transcript of Cassette Recording No. 001775). Retrieved January 8, 2009, from National Archives of Singapore Web site http://www.a2o.com.sg
Rubber magnates wife dies [Microfilm: NL 9720]. (1978, June 1). The Straits Times, p. 11.
Several honors with a low profile. (2004, December 14). The Straits Times. Retrieved on March 1, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Stealing the limelight. (2007, Dec 11). Business Times Singapore. Retrieved January 8, 2009, from Factiva database.
Yap, S. (2005, May 16). US$1m to start a little Lee Foundation with big ambitions. The Straits Times. Retrieved on March 1, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Yap, S. (2005, Apr 4). Lee Foundation gives $30m to NUS. The Straits Times. Retrieved on March 1, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 11 May 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.