East-West Center Oral History Project: Ted Lee

Ted Lee

Ted Lee, eldest son of a Stockton, California, Chinese butcher and grocery store owner, worked hard as a youth in school and in the family's stores.  After graduating from Harvard and serving in the army in Europe, he attended law school at U.C. Berkeley.  After studying and teaching at the University of Singapore law school he began working at the Honolulu law firm of Fong, Miho, Choy and Robinson.  In 1962 after doing some legal work for EWC, Lee was asked by Chancellor Alexander Spoehr to join the Center's new Institute of Advanced Projects as assistant to Vice-Chancellor Ed Weidner.  At EWC he co-coordinated many of the Center's first conferences and seminars and drew up the documents that established the Friends of EWC.  Lee left the Center in 1964 for a long career in urban renewal which included work in San Francisco's Japantown.  He now owns several Nevada casinos.  Lee and his wife are strong supporters of education, having served on several university boards.  In 2006 he began serving on the EWC Foundation Board of Directors.  In 2007 he was appointed to the EWC Board of Governors and currently (2010) serves on both boards.

Read Lee's interview narrative (pdf)


  • Personal Background
  • Life Before EWC - Joining the Army - Law School - Studies in Singapore
  • Life at EWC - Institute for Advanced Projects, 1962 - Institute for Advanced Projects Programs - Friends of EWC
  • Life After EWC - Career in Urban Renewal - Work in Private Sector
  • Ties That Last - EWC Foundation/EWC Board of Governors


Interview Quotes
"I worked for his [Senator Fong’s] law firm for a year and a half.  And one of my clients was the East-West Center.  Alex Spoehr [chancellor of East-West Center] asked if I would do some legal work for him.  So I said, “When do you need the work done?”  And he said, “As soon as possible.”  ... I said, “I’ll have it done by tomorrow.  That was in 1962, and after I finished the work, he asked “Would you consider working at the East-West Center full-time?”  It’s really interesting, that we all have periods in our lives where we want to change.  At that time, I was working so hard.  I was working seven days a week.  But I was very happy.  But, well, first, in those days, the East-West Center was a better job than being a lawyer.... "

“The Institute of Advanced Projects co-sponsored the Festival of Music and Art of this Century with the UH Music Department.  Marian Kerr of the Music Department planned the substance of the programs and I facilitated logistical and budgetary support from East-West Center.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I did many of these projects by myself.  I even picked up everybody when they arrived by plane.  I had a car to pick them up at the airport.  They stayed at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel in Waikiki.  I made a deal with Pan American Airlines to provide free leis for our guests and got a special room rate from Sheraton Hotels at the Princess Kaiulani.”

These narratives, which reflect interviewees’ personal perceptions, opinions and memories, may contain errors of fact. They do not reflect positions or versions of history officially approved by the East-West Center.