UT Dallas Professor Looks Beyond the Classroom, Invests in Students’ Futures

By Jill Blevins  |  August 31, 2013

As an electrical engineering professor, Dr. Gil Lee knows the power of education. But today, a college degree comes at a cost that can be daunting for many. So Lee has a clear message: Use your education to help those students coming behind you.

Lee began teaching in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science in 2001 and soon witnessed how financial assistance attracted potential students, some from his native South Korea. He began recruiting undergraduates from his home country with the help of scholarships and financial support. Last year, Lee took it a step further with the establishment of the Gil Sik Lee Scholarship Fund. Not only did Lee write the first check, he asked for contributions from former students who earned degrees due in part to scholarships.

“The only benefit I receive from the scholarship is that I’m happy,” Lee said. “This is for the sake of the students and the University.”

Fifteen answered the call, and Lee hopes this is just the beginning. The young donors — individuals pursuing other degrees and embarking on new careers — may not have the means to make multi-figure gifts, but they understand the importance of scholarships. If these graduates and others contribute in some way annually, Lee envisions making a big difference.

“I hope this program can grow and hundreds of students can be successful,” Lee said.

In 2013, 12 undergraduates received funds from Lee’s scholarship, with the second round of awards made this fall. Beyond the classroom, Lee invests time in these and the more than 50 other individuals he has recruited to the University during his tenure. He monitors grades, engages in one-on-one meetings and invites students to social gatherings, providing encouragement and motivation.

“Maybe if I can contribute to a good environment, I can help students excel,” he said.

Raised in a poor neighborhood in South Korea, Lee was the first of his six siblings to complete high school and the only one to attend college. “The reason I’m in a good place is because I received a good education,” he said.

Lee hopes by combining his gift with a collection of contributions directed toward a singular cause, he can make a powerful impact at UT Dallas.

“I want to share what I learned, what I earned, so it all goes back into the community,” Lee said.

Relevance: Education, Giving