Luck + hard work = success
Chong-Moon Lee, MA’59
“I was lucky,” said Chong-Moon Lee, who in the 1950s was the recipient of a full scholarship to Peabody College, the result of a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the Korean government to help train Korea’s future leaders in American universities.
“Students in education were assigned to Peabody and I was chosen to be a library science major, which I had been dreaming of,” Lee said.
One of Lee’s fondest Peabody memories is his first visit to the Peabody Library. “I was overwhelmed by the vast collections and quality of services offered, particularly the librarians’ guidance and professionalism in the help they provided,” he said. “I was deeply affected by the friendly support I experienced at Peabody.”
Lee, who graduated in 1959 with a master’s degree in library science, says that his Peabody days gave him a broader perspective on knowledge and learning that laid the foundation for his future as a librarian and then an entrepreneur.
After graduation, Lee returned to South Korea and worked as deputy director of the National Central Library of Korea, while teaching at colleges in Seoul. Amid military revolution and political upheaval, he left the country in the early 1970s and settled in Northern California. With only a few friends and even fewer dollars, he built a successful high-end PC graphics accelerator business, Diamond Multimedia Systems. A little more than a decade after founding it, his company was the No. 1 market shareholder in the world for the high-end PC segment.
Right after a very successful IPO in 1995, he launched the Chong-Moon Lee Foundation to pursue his philanthropic efforts focusing on culture, education and art. Recently Lee made a gift to Peabody College, the place he felt so welcomed all those years ago.
“You can imagine how much I owed Peabody for what I had learned from the school and from the Peabody name itself,” Lee said. “I always wanted Peabody to excel in educating future leaders, and I am very grateful that Peabody is doing it so successfully. I am very proud to have such an outstanding and hard-working dean, and I wanted to help her with what she was trying to do in a smaller way.”
The gift is unrestricted, meaning the funds will be allocated under the guidance of Dean Camilla Benbow.
“Chong-Moon Lee has been a dear friend to Peabody over the years, and we are very proud to claim him as one of our own,” Benbow said. “Mr. Lee’s gift to Peabody will help to ensure that knowledge flows to learners in many settings and across many cultures. Gifts like Mr. Lee’s greatly strengthen Peabody’s leadership in education and human development. We are deeply grateful.”
Lee currently resides in Silicon Valley, where he serves as chairman and CEO of venture capital firm, AmBex Venture Group. In his leisure time, he is seriously engaged in oil painting.