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Lee Foundation chairman Lee Seng Gee dies

SINGAPORE — Philanthropist Lee Seng Gee, the long-time chairman of the Lee Foundation whose causes spanned education to the arts, died at home yesterday afternoon. He was 95.

Dr Lee Seng Gee and his wife Della Lee at their 20th wedding anniversary dinner at NTU in 2011. Photo: NTU

Dr Lee Seng Gee and his wife Della Lee at their 20th wedding anniversary dinner at NTU in 2011. Photo: NTU

SINGAPORE — Philanthropist Lee Seng Gee, the long-time chairman of the Lee Foundation whose causes spanned education to the arts, died at home yesterday afternoon. He was 95.

The eldest son of the late philanthropist and multimillionaire businessman Lee Kong Chian, and grandson of Singapore pioneer Tan Kah Kee, he is survived by his wife, Della Lee, two sons, a daughter and their spouses and six grandchildren.

Dr Lee was the long-time chairman of the Lee Rubber Group. His death comes nine months after his younger brother Lee Seng Wee, former OCBC Bank chairman, died last August at the age of 85.

The Lee Foundation, under his care, has given large donations to support the education and arts sectors, various social welfare programmes, and a host of charitable causes.

These include a S$150 million gift to Nanyang Technological University’s fledgling medical school — the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine — in 2011, S$50 million to the newly set up Singapore Management University in 2004, and S$25 million in 2010 to expand the National University of Singapore’s Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, which was renamed Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

In 2011, Dr Lee and his wife, alongside her DS Lee Foundation, made a multi-million-dollar contribution to buy a trio of dinosaur skeletons from the United States, now displayed at the museum.

“Like his father and grandfather, he was an extraordinary entrepreneur, community leader and philanthropist who made unparalleled contributions to Singapore. His passing is a great loss to us all,” said the family in a statement yesterday.

Born on June 25, 1921, Dr Lee was the eldest of five children in his family. The teenage Dr Lee did part of his studies in the US, and took up economics at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1943. He received his Masters in Business Administration the following year.

In 1944, he married his first wife, the late Lora Tong, who was the daughter of the first premier of the Republic of China.

The couple had four children. After World War II in 1946, the 25-year-old Dr Lee was called home to Singapore to rebuild the family business, the Lee Rubber Group.

In 1952, when his father started Lee Foundation, Dr Lee took on duties there while he continued to manage businesses in Indonesia. He became chairman and chief executive officer of the Lee Group in the 1960s.

In 1965, he was made chairman of the Lee Foundation. He married Ms Della Lee, the granddaughter of Indonesian philanthropist Thio Siong Soe, in 1991.

During his lifetime, Dr Lee was recognised with many awards. In 1992, he was awarded the Public Service Star. In 2012, the Ambassador of France to Singapore, on behalf of the French president, awarded him the Commandeur de l’Ordre National du Merite (National Order of Merit) for supporting multiple cultural initiatives through the Lee Foundation.

Under his watch, Lee Foundation also earned the National Arts Council’s Distinguished Patron of The Arts Award on numerous occasions, and it was the first recipient of the National Council of Social Services’ Presidential Medallion for Social Philanthropy in 2011. VALERIE KOH

 

 

 

Details of the wake and funeral

Dr Lee’s wake will be held at his home on 87 Meyer Road, from noon today till midnight, and tomorrow (12 May) from 9am. The funeral service will be tomorrow at 11am.

The family has requested that no wreaths be sent, and any donations to be made to Singapore General Hospital, Jamiyah Singapore, and Kong Meng San Temple.

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