Lee excels at both artistic and scientific pursuits

He was a double major in two disciplines that probably couldn’t be further apart, lived thousands of miles from home and participated in five theater productions his senior year.

Pretty impressive, especially considering Kevin Lee started regularly speaking English just six years ago.

Kevin Lee
Kevin Lee, who will receive degrees in computer science from the School of Engineering & Applied Science and in drama with an emphasis in acting from the College of Arts & Sciencces, served as producer of the recent All Student Theatre production “Pippin”, staged at the Beaumont Pavillion in Brookings Quadrangle. – Photo by David Kilper

Lee will graduate with honors today, having earned degrees in computer science from the School of Engineering & Applied Science and in drama with an emphasis in acting from the College of Arts & Sciences.

He was born in Hong Kong and has lived in the United States for six years, having attended two years of high school in Massachusetts.

“I work pretty well under stress,” Lee says. “I always want to be busy. I need something to do to make me feel constructive and productive.”

And busy he is. Lee applied to the University to study engineering. He was always interested in acting, and had performed in several plays in high school, but never imagined he would pursue a degree.

After taking “Acting I” his freshman year and being cast in a few productions, he decided to declare a second major.

He loves the contrast between theater and computers.

“In theater, you are on stage acting and performing,” Lee says. “In computer science, you sit at your desk and figure out a program. They are both challenging in different ways, and I really enjoy them both.”

Growing up, he excelled at math and computers and knew he’d one day like to work in engineering.

School of Engineering & Applied Science;
College of Arts & Sciences

His passion for acting took longer to develop. Lee’s parents, who live in Hong Kong, never forced him to learn music, but it was always something that interested him.

“I just like to act and dance,” he says. “I think my interest in acting really started from listening to a lot of musicals when I was young. I realized I like acting more than musicals.”

Lee has participated in 11 productions during his stint at the University, most recently serving as producer of All Student Theatre’s showing of Pippin. He also acted in a wide variety of shows, including Once in a Lifetime, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Pirates of Penzance and Imaginary Invalid, and has been involved as director and designer as well.

But one of the biggest challenges he faced was portraying John Lee, the main character in Chay Yew’s play Porcelain. Lee immersed himself in the production, his senior thesis.

In addition to playing the lead, he did exhaustive research on the play’s subject matter, which examined issues of race and sexual orientation.

“Being gay and being Asian in college has been very important to me,” Lee says. “Learning about my identity throughout my college career was an amazing experience.”

Annamaria Pileggi, senior artist-in-residence in the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences, says Lee was an outstanding student.

“With demanding majors in both computer science and drama, Kevin has excelled in each of these pursuits,” Pileggi says.

She served as Lee’s adviser on his senior honors thesis.

“The play was very well received, and Kevin’s fine work in the show was a major factor in its success,” she says. “His honors project was indeed a fitting way for Kevin to conclude his studies at the University.”

After Commencement, Lee plans to move to San Francisco to find a job in computer science.

“I’d like to find a place with both computer science and theater opportunities,” he says. “And I think San Francisco is a great place for me. There are a lot of theater opportunities to act and to see great shows.”

Lee says he thoroughly enjoyed his experience at the University.

“I’ve really been able to do whatever I want to do here, which is amazing,” he says. “Having a duel degree in computer science and drama with no restrictions and no limitations is wonderful. You can’t do that at many schools.

“And I’ve met so many different friends as well. It’s everything that I really wanted in college — to enlarge my social circle and to get to know a lot of different people from all over the world.”