By James Irwin
Simon Lee, founder and chief executive officer of STG Inc., was recognized with the George Washington University President’s Medal on Wednesday, becoming the first Korean-American to receive the award.
Mr. Lee, M.S. ’05, has been an active university volunteer and an influential advocate for GW in the United States and abroad for more than a decade, playing a critical role in the growth and success of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and serving as a resource for student, parent and alumni relations in the Republic of Korea. A $1 million gift from Mr. Lee and his wife, Anna, in 2010 endowed the Korea University Undergraduate Exchange Program, which provides financial assistance for engineering students at GW to study abroad at Korea University. Another gift of $1 million in 2014 to Korea University funds an exchange program for graduate students and professors between the two universities.
“Simon Lee is a faithful friend and alumnus whose devotion to education has enabled students in both the United States and the Republic of Korea to realize their dreams,” President Steven Knapp said. “I am proud to bestow this special honor on him for his unwavering dedication to the George Washington University, his achievements as a visionary entrepreneur and his leadership in fostering educational exchanges between his two alma maters and the great capital cities in which they reside.”
The President’s Medal, established in 1988, is the highest honor the university president can award. It recognizes individuals who have exhibited courage, character and leadership in their chosen fields and who exemplify the ability of all human beings to improve the lives of others.
“I began the exchange program to build a bridge between GW and Korea University—two universities that have had a major influence on my life,” Mr. Lee said Wednesday. “I know, someday, the students that enter this program will turn into successful world leaders and entrepreneurs themselves and will also give back, creating more opportunities for students and a stronger bond between the two universities and the two countries I love so dearly.”
After emigrating from the Republic of Korea to the United States in 1979, Mr. Lee worked as an engineer and bookkeeper with MCI Telecommunications before launching STG Inc. in 1986. Since then he has grown STG into a company of more than 1,300 employees that works with more than 50 federal agencies. A member of the SEAS National Advisory Council, Mr. Lee was inducted into the SEAS Hall of Fame in 2010 and received GW’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award in 2012.
“I’ve developed enormous admiration and respect for Simon Lee, not just as a very successful businessman and not just as an unparalleled bridge builder between two great institutions, but as a man with a vision of transforming young people’s lives,” said SEAS Dean David Dolling, who spoke of how Mr. Lee devoted a full day last year to take three undergraduate students to meet with engineers at LG Display, one of Korea’s most successful high-tech companies.
“We had a tour of their design and manufacturing plant that really only VIPs get. We saw some of their latest technology they’ll be bringing to the marketplace very shortly,” Dr. Dolling said. “What CEO of a major company devotes a full day to giving three GW students such an amazing experience? Well, Simon Lee. The lives of many students have been, and will continue to be, enriched through the programs he has built and supported.”
Previous recipients of the President’s Medal include Nobel Laureate and former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, former Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Laureate Shimon Peres, journalist Walter Cronkite, Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, NASA astronaut Charles J. Camarda, M.S. ’80, philanthropist Albert H. Small and Swiss diplomat and social justice advocate Carl Lutz, B.A. ’24.
“To be in the same company as presidents, prime ministers and Nobel laureates who have received this medal before me is truly humbling,” Mr. Lee said.
Simon Lee, who received the George Washington University President’s Medal on Wednesday, joined engineering alumni of the Korea University exchange program last week for a reunion event in Foggy Bottom. To date, 23 GW students have been supported by the Simon and Anna Lee Korea University Endowment.