Alumnus, donor and former chancellor Robert H. Lee passes away at 86

Former UBC Chancellor and UBC Properties Trust Chairperson Robert (Bob) H. Lee has passed away at the age of 86.

In a statement released on February 20, UBC President Santa Ono said the news of Lee’s passing on February 19 came with “deep sadness and a great sense of loss.”

“I know that the UBC community will be joined by countless others in our local, national, and international communities in mourning the loss of this truly accomplished and beloved man,” reads Ono’s statement.

Lee graduated from UBC in 1956 with a bachelor of commerce. After his graduation, he began a career in real estate and became the founder of the Prospero Group of Companies.

Lee also maintained connections to his alma mater for years after his graduation, serving two terms on the UBC Board of Governors (BoG) and as the chancellor of the university in 1993.

He also served as chair of the UBC Foundation and was the honorary chair of UBC’s fundraising and alumni engagement campaign, start an evolution. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of laws in 1996. A decade later, the Robert H. Lee Graduate School at the Sauder School of Business opened in 2006 to recognize his contributions to graduate business education.

The Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre, which opened in 2015 and is the current location for Board meetings, was also named in recognition of his personal and financial contributions to the university — totalling $15 million overall.

Current BoG Chair Michael Korenberg also tweeted his condolences to the Lee family.

“On behalf of the UBC Board of Governors, I offer our sincere condolences to the Lee family. Bob has had an extraordinarily positive impact on several generations of UBC students, faculties and leadership,” reads the tweet.

One of Lee’s most influential decisions at the university may be the founding of UBC Properties Trust in 1988. Lee served as chair of UBC Properties Trust for 23 years, overseeing an expansive real estate and residential development of the university lands.

According to Ono’s statement, UBC Properties Trust has gained the university “$1.7 billion dollars to date with a projected $4 billion dollars in perpetuity.”

“Mr. Lee believed that UBC should take an active role in developing a portion of the UBC lands for residential development and establish long-term endowment wealth,” reads a post on UBC Properties Trust’s website.

Outside of UBC, Lee was also a well-known philanthropist in the Vancouver community at large. He was a contributor to the Robert Lee YMCA, the Robert & Lily Lee Family Community Health Centre and the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.