Graduation is a family affair

When senior Michelle Lee graduates on Sunday, most of her family will not be in the audience cheering for her – they will be graduating as well.

Michelle is the youngest member of what is believed to be GW’s first group of four family members to graduate together. As she receives her bachelor’s degree in sport, event and hospitality management, her brother Philip Lee, sister Julie Lee and father Simon Lee will also receive master’s degrees in systems engineering.

“I feel very proud of my family,” Michelle Lee said. “(I am) honored that I am able to share such a special occasion with them. It is quite a unique experience.”

But it is not just the Lee family’s graduation that is unique; their entire journey was different from most students’ college careers.

Michelle Lee joined her family at GW three years ago after she transferred from Northeastern University. Because of a difference in credit systems, she was required to take three years of classes at GW.

“My sister was the first to attend GW by starting in the MBA program but later transferred to the engineering program to join my brother and father in the accelerated masters program,” Michelle Lee said.

Her father, Simon Lee, along with his wife Anna Lee, emigrated to the United States from South Korea 26 years ago. Since then, he has begun his own information technology company, STG Inc. The company now has more than 1,300 employees around the world.

Simon Lee was also recently awarded the Overseas Korean Award, the highest award his homeland’s government can give to a native citizen living abroad.

“My dad is so big in the corporate world, and he comes home and he has to do homework,” Michelle Lee said. “It’s pretty funny.”

Michelle Lee, who lives at her parents’ house 30 minutes outside the city, said her family made some sacrifices in order to take their classes at GW.

“They have class all day on Saturday starting at (8 a.m.) and ending at (5 p.m.),” Michelle Lee said. “On Friday nights, my brother and sister couldn’t go out and my dad couldn’t go golfing on Saturday, which was a big thing to him.”

“The running joke between the three was ‘who’s going to doing the homework tonight?'” said Michelle Lee, who has a regular weekday schedule at GW.

The Lee family has also left their mark on GW by giving a large monetary donation. The University renamed the dean’s office in the School of Engineering and Applied Science the Simon and Anna Lee Dean’s Suite in April.

“Many great people have graduated from this University and made a great impact on the world,” Simon Lee said at the dedication, according to a University news release. “I hope that I, and my family, can continue that tradition.”

Michelle Lee said she respects her father for the extra work he has put in, adding that he has been an influence to her throughout her college years.

“He … set the example of hard work and perseverance, while reminding us that education is a life-long experience,” she said. Michelle Lee said she is still uncertain about her post-GW plans.

“I am looking into different graduate programs and possibly a culinary institute,” she said. “But until I decide, I will be working.”

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