Student advocate, loving wife, mother, aunt
Claremont resident Rebecca “Bekki” Lee died suddenly from a stroke on Saturday, October 14, 2013. She was 57. At the time of her passing, she was serving as the vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Scripps College.
Throughout her career as an educator, she was deeply committed to issues of equity and social justice. Often praised as a wise and kind student advocate, Ms. Lee oversaw co-curricular activities and residential life for Scripps’ 950 students. She was the chair of The Claremont Colleges Student Deans Committee for the 2013–2014 academic year.
Ms. Lee was the wife of David Hansen, Weinberg Family Dean of the W.M. Keck Science Department of Claremont McKenna, Pitzer and Scripps Colleges, whom she married on June 25, 1988. She was the mother of Nicole Lee Hansen, a middle school math teacher at the Orchard Gardens Pilot School in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and Emily Diem My Lee Hansen, a student at The Webb Schools in Claremont.
Ms. Lee was born on January 21, 1956 in New York, New York, and grew up in and attended high school in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in psychological services in education from the University of Pennsylvania.
Ms. Lee’s career in student affairs began at the University of Pennsylvania as a career counselor for the graduate school of social work. She then worked at UC Davis for two years as a resident director, moving on to Oberlin College in Ohio, where she served as an area coordinator and later assistant dean of residential life.
From 1986 to 2009, Ms. Lee worked in the dean of students’ office at Amherst College in Massachusetts. When she departed for Claremont in 2009, she held the title associate dean of students and served as the assistant director of the career center and pre-law advisor.
Devoted to her immediate and extended families, Ms. Lee adored her two daughters. She wept on each girl’s first day of pre-school and when Nicole was dropped off at college. As a girl, Ms. Lee played the viola (as always, the school orchestra needed viola players) but always loved the warmth of the cello. In elementary school, Nicole began learning the violin but switched to the cello in eighth grade. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Lee was learning the cello, too.
When Emily appeared in a number of community theater productions back in Amherst, Ms. Lee was a stalwart in the costume shop, employing her considerable sewing skills evening after evening. For the few moments Emily was front and center on stage, Ms. Lee also surreptitiously made videos of her, which the family treasured. A number of years ago, when her niece Claire Stepanek voiced the classic middle-child complaint that the family had not taken enough photos of her as a young child, Ms. Lee soon provided an album from her vast collection of family photos that more than doubled the number of Claire photos in the Stepanek household.
For her entire adult life, Ms. Lee lived with at least one dog, often two, and when she met her husband David in Amherst in 1986, she had just moved from Ohio with a dog and two cats. Her favorite website was Petfinder.com.
Every summer for the past three decades, Ms. Lee spent several weeks surrounded by her immediate and extended family at the Silver Bay YMCA of the Adirondacks on Lake George in upstate New York. She also served for two terms as a member of the board of trustees for the Silver Bay YMCA. Her niece Cameron Lee recalls, “I remember the numerous hours I spent with Auntie Bekki in the craft shop at Silver Bay while I learned to weave for the very first time. I started out making a scarf, but before I knew it I was making a shorter placemat. After a few days of weaving, I was just about ready to give up, but Auntie Bekki provided me with so much encouragement that I decided to see the job through. When I finally finished, she told me my placemat was beautiful, which made me feel so special.”
Ms. Lee was active in the Claremont community, serving on The Webb Schools’ strategic planning committee. She was an informal advisor and participant of Psyko Taiko, the Japanese drumming group of the undergraduate Claremont Colleges, and Kishin Daiko in West Covina, where she was a volunteer and drummer-in-training. Prior to relocating to Claremont, Ms. Lee had also been a youth soccer coach and a community theater and school volunteer and fundraiser for the Amherst, Massachusetts public school system.
Ms. Lee is also survived by her parents, Raymond and Ivy Lee of Gladwyne, Pennsylvania; by her two sisters, Valerie Lee, also of Gladwyne, and Pamela Lee of San Marino, California; and by her brother, Malcolm Lee of Bethesda, Maryland.
A memorial service for Ms. Lee will be held on Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 2 p.m. at Garrison Theater at the Scripps College Performing Arts Center. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests celebrating Ms. Lee’s lifelong commitment to education, access and inclusivity through contributions to the Bekki Lee Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund at Scripps College, 1030 Columbia Ave., Claremont, CA 91711 or www.scrippscollege.edu.