On a family trip to Cambodia, Paul won over groups of villagers with his hip-hop moves. “When they would see his style, they would crack up,” Albert Lee says.
After his parents and sister had gone upstairs for the night, Albert Lee loved to watch his younger brother dance. Hip-hop music blared through Paul Lee’s headphones as he skillfully rocked, turned, and dipped to the beat. “Seeing him dance like no one was watching was one of the happiest things for me,” Albert says. “A part of me wants him to do that forever. Knowing that I won’t get to see that as a human being hurts.”
A 19-year-old freshman at Seattle Pacific University, Paul was the son of Peter and Mira Lee of Beaverton, Oregon. Paul died on June 5, 2014.
Just days earlier, one of his floormates, sophomore Jordan Wagner, was waiting for the elevator in Ashton Hall at around 9 a.m. Not a morning person, Paul stumbled out of his room, rubbing his eyes. As soon as he saw Wagner, who was wearing a suit and tie and carrying his microbiology presentation poster, Paul smiled and gave Wagner a fist bump. “You’ve got this, man,” he said.
To Wagner, that was typical of Paul. “He went out of his way to make sure that people knew they mattered.”
Senior Chris Jellum founded SPU’s hip-hop club, Ante Up, and served as its president in 2013–14. Paul was a member of the club and taught dance classes. “He knew how to lift me up, and knew what dance is all about,” Jellum says. “He reminded me that it’s about passion and fun, not just the show and publicity.”
Paul (right) graduated from Westview High School in Beaverton, Oregon. He is pictured here with his older brother, Albert, and his younger sister, Alicia.
While everyone who knew Paul speaks of his contagious smile and ability to make people laugh, they also remember his deep faith and willingness to ask tough questions. He volunteered at a homeless shelter for women in high school, and Albert says that he always thought about how each choice he made affected his parents and others.
Paul’s major was still undeclared, but he expressed interest in studying psychology and theology. In a high school paper, Paul wrote, “I noticed that humans, no matter how good they are, or intend to be, still hold onto darkness. I have it pretty well, while some people are unfortunate to be in tough situations. That is why I want to help these people out.”
Unfortunately, Paul’s life was ended by the type of person he wanted to help, says his father, Peter Lee. The Lee family has decided to start the Paul Lee Foundation (paulleefoundation.org), which will support research for those who suffer from mental illness. For one of their first projects, the family plans to support the research on stress and depression in adolescents being conducted by Amy Mezulis, associate professor of clinical psychology in SPU’s School of Psychology, Family, and Community.
“The pain that we’ve felt is something that we don’t want on anyone else,” Albert says. “Paul lived his life selflessly. We want to continue what Paul was doing.”
who live in Ashton Hall created signs of support in remembrance of Paul Lee, who lived on Fifth West Ashton.