Philanthropist, Prospero Group founder Bob Lee dead at 86

BC biz leader passes

Philanthropist, business leader and former University of British Columbia chancellor Robert H. Lee, better known as Bob Lee, died on Feb. 19 at the age of 86.

Lee’s business career included working in real estate in the 1960s and then founding the Prospero Group in 1979. He was chair of that integrated real estate company that now has more than 150 employees.

Lee graduated from UBC in 1956, and was a longtime patron of the university. He served as a member of the UBC Board of Governors, as chancellor of UBC between 1993 and 1996, and chairman of the UBC Foundation. He was a key founder of UBC Properties Trust, which raised more than $350 million for the university's endowment fund.

The Robert H. Lee Graduate School was named for him in 2006 in recognition of Lee’s $5 million lead gift that led a $15 million commitment in support of graduate education at UBC's Sauder School of Business. Lee's name is also on the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre at UBC, the Robert and Lily Lee Family and Community Health Centre near Commercial Drive and the Robert Lee YMCA on Burrard Street.

Among Lee's awards was being named to the Order of British Columbia, the Order of Canada and being named businessman of the year in 1990 by what is now the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

He and wife Lily had four children: Carol, Leslie, Derek and Graham.

“Bob dedicated much of his life, expertise and resources to building a brighter future for British Columbians and Canadians, and he embodied the mission of UBC and its vision for its alumni,” said UBC president Santa Ono in a statement.

“Bob touched the lives of many. He set the bar for community involvement through longstanding commitment to many organizations.”

Lee was born in Vancouver in 1933 and he was raised in the Chinatown neighbourhood. His father had immigrated from China, and one of Lee's early jobs was to work in his restaurant as a cook.

"The two core values that my father passed on to me are caring for family and community," Lee said in a biography on the Sauder School of Business website.

"I have tried to remain faithful to them in everything I have done and instill these same values in my children. I have always been guided by the deep belief that we all have a responsibility towards one another and that true success is measured by your stake in the community — your dedication and your generosity — not only with your money, but also with your time, energy, and ideas."

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