Lee endows scholarship in honor of his parents
Walter G. Lee ’01, who works for an Internet company in Silicon Valley, recently had what he calls “a piece of good luck.” Now that good luck—known to all stock market-watchers as the Google IPO—is being shared with Princetonians, in the form of the Jan and Susanna Lee P01 Scholarship Fund, honoring Lee’s parents.
For Lee, a software engineer at Google, the scholarship is a creative way to thank his mother and father as well as a way to give back to Princeton, which he attended on a William H. Cane Scholarship and credits with launching him on his career. As an undergraduate, he was a computer science major and a thesis advisee of computer science professor (now dean of the faculty) David P. Dobkin. A member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, Lee also served as an editor of the Daily Princetonian and held summer internships at Microsoft and an Internet startup company.
“Financial aid played a critical role in my life,” he says. “The University’s generous financial aid program, and specifically the Cane Scholarship, made a Princeton education affordable for my family. Now, I want to help future generations in the same way.”
His education paid off when he joined Google in 2003 as a member of its AdWords group, working on software that supports all ads appearing on the site. “It’s a technical and creative mega-challenge,” he notes. “Every time an ad is clicked, that action has to be tracked. What makes programming exciting is being able to harness the power of computers to do something that has never been done before, on a really large scale, and building something that people around the world find useful.”
The Google community reminds him of Princeton. “You could study computer science at a lot of schools, but what made Princeton unique was the people—so smart, such diverse backgrounds, all talented in their own way. Our Google team is a lot like that.”He is a campus recruiter for his employer, which is led by CEO and Princeton Trustee Eric E. Schmidt ’76; President Tilghman is on the board of directors.
Lee believes that to endow a scholarship is to give a gift that keeps on giving, because every year the fund generates income for a deserving student to attend Princeton. “I feel like it’s a permanent legacy,” he says. “I read in theAnnual Scholarship Bulletin that there are scholarships established in the late 1700s from which students still receive funds.” He read correctly.
James Leslie of the Class of 1759 endowed the first scholarship fund in 1792; it is supporting nine students this year. Lee’s parents—who came from China’s Guangdong Province and settled in Moorestown, New Jersey—have had a strong influence on their son’s life. “My parents raised me to believe that hard work brings success,” he says, “and that if you have good luck, you share it. My mother told me, ‘You will receive favors in life that you can’t return, so you forward them.’ I hope that’s what this scholarship is doing.”