Doris Lee’s $15 million gift to UNLV in 2011 was lauded as one that would change the national reputation of the university.
It continues to pay dividends.
“The gift was transformational for our college,” said Brent Hathaway, dean of the Lee Business School. “I left another university on the belief that the future of UNLV, generally, but the Lee Business School, was immense. She played a strong role in recruiting me to UNLV and encouraging a bold vision for the future of our school.”
Lee, 98, a real estate developer and casino owner, died Tuesday at her Las Vegas home after a brief illness.
“I think, in my mind, we lost a pillar of the community,” Hathaway said. “She was a great friend and a champion for the business school. Her legacy will live on through our work, and through our Lee scholars and Lee professors.”
The gift she and husband Ted Lee gave the school that bears their name had an immediate effect in funding professorships and scholarships.
“It enables us to recruit talent that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” Hathaway said. “We can be more competitive on salary and research support to attract highly productive faculty from many disciplines.”
Doris Lee was also a benefactor of the arts, sponsoring live-music performances for Nevada Ballet Theatre.
“She thought that live music with ballet was essential and believed that it made the performance artistically complete,” said Nancy Houssels, co-founder of Nevada Ballet Theatre and a friend of Lee’s.
In 2012, she and Ted received the Outstanding Philanthropist award from the Las Vegas chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
In 1960, Lee became a member of the executive committee of the National Dollar Stores, a chain founded by her father, Joe Shoong.
After she married her second husband, Ted, in 1969, they founded the Urban Land Co. in 1972. It owns properties in California and Nevada, including the Eureka Casino properties in Mesquite and Las Vegas.
“She loved accounting and knew when a business was healthy and knew when things didn’t look right,” her son Gregory Lee said Tuesday. “With Eureka, she was involved very early on in knowing how much we could invest, and how we could finance things.”
Lee remained involved with both of her sons, Gregory Lee and Ernest Lee, in the management of the family company until her final illness.
“She was a dynamic woman,” Houssels said. “Well into her 90s she was driving her car and driving to the office. She was a fantastic businesswoman.”
Andre Carrier, chief operating officer for Eureka Casinos, said he learned to think more clearly about the needs of the business from her, just as she taught him how to make better beef and broccoli.
“If that range exists in other people, I certainly don’t know any,” Carrier said, adding that Lee was the consummate matriarch. “She was someone who led a family — both a genetic one and a much broader one — not only in business life, but in teaching us the importance of compassion and being a role model for how to comport yourself through life and business.”