Uncle Bernie Picture

Remembering Uncle Bernie Lee

Bernard Shing-Shu "Bernie" Lee, or Uncle Bernie as he was called at Camp, passed away peacefully in November 2010 in Arizona, after a year-long, courageous battle with lung cancer. The Lees - Uncle Bernie, Auntie Pauline, Karen, Lesley, and Tania – were a fixture at Camp for many years, attending the second session from 1971 to 1983. Uncle Bernie and Auntie Pauline each served as Camp Director in 1972 and 1977, respectively. Their last year of attendance (without their kids) was at the 30th Anniversary Camp in 1988. Uncle Bernie was a model to many of the Young Adults and teens as to what it meant to be an engineer as well as a Chinese- American who had adapted well to American culture while still retaining his cultural heritage.

Uncle Bernie was born in Nanjing, China in 1934, and he came with his family to America in 1949. The family owned a cattle farm in Virginia for the first few years, and he helped with farm chores on top of learning English and going to school. The first engineer in his family, Uncle Bernie received his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1956 from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, and continued on to receive his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Poly in 1960. He first met Auntie Pauline while he was in Chicago doing his thesis research at Argonne National Laboratory.

Upon graduation, Uncle Bernie bought his first car (a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air convertible) and embarked on his professional career at Arthur D. Little, Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts working on a variety of experimental and pilot plant projects using fluidized bed reactor technology. His main reason for choosing the Boston area was to pursue Auntie Pauline who was getting her doctorate in biochemistry at Harvard. Their wedding in 1963 began their loving partnership of 47 years.

Uncle Bernie and Aunty Pauline in 2010

In 1965, the Lees moved to Chicago where Uncle Bernie joined the Institute of Gas Technology, a not-for-profit contract research and education organization. Uncle Bernie began as a Supervisor responsible for a development project to convert coal to substitute natural gas. He devoted most of his time at the pilot plant and became an authority in the gasification field. As his leadership ability was recognized, he took on increasing responsibilities, becoming President of IGT in 1978, a position he held for 21 years until his retirement in 1999.

Early in his professional career, Uncle Bernie understood that energy was a driving force for the economy. Because the world’s oil supply would eventually be exhausted, he advocated research to develop alternative energy sources. Even after his retirement, he made a personal investment into renewable energy by installing solar panels on his home and convincing many neighbors to do the same. Since 2007, Uncle Bernie also co-authored several papers pointing out the need for Massive Energy Storage (MES, a term he coined) options to allow solar and wind power to provide a constant supply of electricity.

At IGT, Uncle Bernie organized new strategies to raise research funds. He applied these skills to help fundraising for Chinese-Americans who were running for public office in the 1990s. Uncle Bernie also successfully led a campaign to raise $5 million for a new community building for the Chinese American Service League in Chicago’s Chinatown, which was dedicated in 2003. Uncle Bernie served as director on several boards, and especially enjoyed travelling to Asia as Advisor to Petronas in Malaysia, and Shanghai Gas Design Institute in China. Always grateful for the education he received, he and Auntie Pauline also endowed an undergraduate scholarship fund at his alma mater (now renamed Polytechnic Institute of New York).

The Lees moved to Arizona in 2002, where Uncle Bernie enjoyed wearing t-shirts, comfortable shoes and driving his retirement-gift Corvette. Uncle Bernie’s favorite pastimes included his daily crossword puzzles and Sudokus, playing tennis, singing in the church choir, hiking and enjoying fine meals at French restaurants on special occasions. The Lee daughters have settled around the globe – Karen in China, Lesley in Illinois, and Tania in Canada, each with three children apiece totaling eight grandsons and one granddaughter.

When contacted in 2002 about attending the reunion session at Oakwood, Uncle Bernie wrote the following about his memories of past Camps:


…as best recalled between accelerating frequencies of “senior moments” by Bernie Lee 4-29-02
Lee Family 1973-78

Overall, the CSAS Family Camp experience was unique and left indelible imprints on our whole family.

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