Lee Center for Advanced Networking

David Lee
When David Lee decided to donate $10 million to his alma mater, the California Institute of Technology, he didn’t want to contribute the money for a building or a research laboratory that would simply display his name. “That’s not important to me or my family,” says the 1974 Caltech graduate, who earned a PhD in physics with a minor in economics and now serves on Caltech’s Board of Trustees.

Instead, Lee wanted to advance a whole field of research because of his experience with the telecommunication industry. Dr. David Lee is a co-founder and Managing General Partner of Clarity Partners. In 1975, Dr. Lee started his professional career with Arthur Andersen & Co. in Los Angeles. In 1981 he joined a company that was acquired by Comsat, the satellite communications company, and held various executive positions at Comsat. In 1986, Dr. Lee joined TRW Information Systems Group. As group vice president of Finance and Acquisition at TRW, he was instrumental in expanding the information systems business from two to nine divisions in four years through acquisitions and internal growth. In late 1989, Dr. Lee left TRW to pursue his interest in private equity investments, and joined Pacific Capital Group, where he helped the firm's expansion into the telecommunications industry. Dr. Lee was a co-founder of Global Crossing in 1997, and served as president and chief operating officer.

The Lee Center, founded in 1999, is unusual in several ways. For one, its lifespan is finite, limited to ten years. For another, it is a “virtual” center, without bricks or mortar. He also established a sister program at Chiao-Tung University, in Taiwan. The Lee Center supports a distinctive class of research projects. Explains Lee, “The Center supports the kinds of smaller projects that would not be funded by other resources, which are usually government sponsored and targeted to finding a specific solution to a specific problem. I wanted to give these scientists more flexibility, and allow them to explore where their research takes them.

Still another purpose of the Center, says Lee, is “to recruit new faculty and graduate students, and enlarge and strengthen Caltech’s electrical engineering department and computer science overall.”

“Communications networks affect all of us every day,” says Lee. “To gain further insights into how these networks will evolve and how our lives will be changed, we need contributions from several disciplines. For example, electrical engineering can indicate how the technical development of devices can speed up the network over time; computer science can help develop better routing algorithms; and economics and applied mathematics can help model government policy implications. You don’t want to put walls around disciplines. Allowing people with different areas of expertise to mix together is the best and fastest way to develop ubiquitous and stable communication networks.”