Long-term vision, entrepreneurial drive and a strong dedication to community – these are hallmarks of Bob Lee’s life and career. Born in Vancouver in 1933, Lee attended the University of British Columbia (UBC), earning a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1956. Chinese tradition dictated that upon graduation, Lee should join his father’s import business. Lasting only two years, he envisioned a more prosperous future, joking that his father didn’t pay him enough to support his lifestyle. He joined the real estate firm H.A. Roberts, and moved on to co-found Wall Financial Corp. in 1966. In 1979, he built a formidable real estate business by forming the highly successful Prospero Group of Companies.
Lee’s foresight in fostering business ties to Asia, at a time when few others recognized its future influence, sparked major Asian investments in British Columbia and marked a significant development in the province’s economic growth in the 1970s and ’80s. He built a strong real estate presence on the west coast of Canada and the U.S., with extensive commercial real estate holdings in the Lower Mainland.
Lee’s career has combined outstanding achievements with philanthropy and community service. His business acumen and knowledge have enabled him to play a key role with a number of community institutions. A long-time patron of UBC, Bob Lee has served as member of the Board of Governors (1984-1990), as Chancellor (1993-1996) and Chair of the UBC Foundation. In November 2006, the Robert H. Lee Graduate School was established at the Sauder School of Business. The school is named for his generous gift to graduate education at the school as well as his long-term support to UBC. He is a Director of The Vancouver Foundation and the Prostate Centre at Vancouver General Hospital, and his many past directorships include the Vancouver Port Corporation, The Vancouver Board of Trade and B.C. Paraplegic Foundation. He has also served on many corporate boards, including BC Tel, CN, Crown Life Insurance and Wall Financial, and is a Trustee for Fraser Institute and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at UBC.
One of his most notable contributions includes his role as a key founder of UBC Properties Trust in 1987. He saw land as a tremendous asset that could generate revenue through long-term endowment wealth. The first residential project, the 28-acre community of Hampton Place, produced $80 million for the UBC Endowment. For his ongoing contributions to UBC, Mr. Lee has also received his alma mater’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Robert Lee’s contributions have not gone unnoticed. His reputation for excellence and integrity are recognized by all who have met him. He has received a number of awards and recognition including the Business Person of the Year in 1990 by a panel of judges drawn from the Chinese-Canadian business community and The Vancouver Board of Trade. Bob has received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree from UBC in 1996, the Order of British Columbia in 1990 and the Order of Canada in 1999.
Mr. Lee’s commitment to education and community service is shared by his wife Lily and his four children.