Scripps College Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Rebecca “Bekki” Lee passed away Oct. 12 at the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center after suffering a stroke in her office the previous day. Lee, who became the Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs at Scripps in 2010 after 23 years at Amherst College, is remembered for her deep involvement in the Scripps community.
“Bekki was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met,” Scripps President Lori Bettison-Varga said. “Her wise and thoughtful approach to problem-solving was critical to my team, Scripps students, and the college as a whole. She will be missed dearly.”
A candlelight vigil was held the evening of Oct. 13 on the Bowling Green Lawn at Scripps. Hundreds of students, faculty, family, and friends were there to commemorate Lee’s life and legacy.
“We had 500 candles and there were still people in the crowd without one,” Bettison-Varga said in an interview with TSL.
The ceremony began with a performance by the Psycho-Taiko Drum Team, a 5C Japanese Taiko drumming club in which Lee was involved. Lee also coached children’s soccer and was involved with community theater, according to the Scripps website.
The performance was followed by speeches from Bettison-Varga, Scripps Associated Students President Marta Bean SC ’14, Scripps Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Amy Marcus-Newhall, and Acting Dean of Students Samuel Haynes.
The podium was then open to anyone who wished to speak, an opportunity that many Scripps students and faculty members took to express their grief and gratitude for Lee’s work.
“She always had students’ interests in mind,” Marcus-Newhall said at the ceremony. “She was the epitome of the student advocate.”
Bettison-Varga said that Lee’s most important contribution to Scripps was making the community more inclusive.
“Over the last three years, Bekki helped student voices to be heard and provided a framework for their thoughts, their concerns, and their suggestions to turn into action,” Bettison-Varga said. “Transforming a college community is a very difficult task, but after these last three [years] we are starting to feel the real, true impact Bekki has left in this community and on us all.”
“Scripps College was Bekki’s home away from home,” wrote Lee’s husband David Hansen, Dean of the Keck Science Center, in an e-mail to TSL.
“Bekki loved her students and considered it her life’s calling to be an educator and to support her students’ goals and aspirations,” he wrote. “Her essential wisdom was to never judge and to always consider the perspective of others—for her, there were two sides to every story, and Bekki strove to see the other point of view.”
One of Lee’s recent projects as Dean of Students was the creation of the Scripps College Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault group.
“Dean Bekki Lee, along with Dean Marla Love, personally advised and guided the Advocates in the group’s formative stages,” Advocates president Theresa Iker SC ’14 wrote in an e-mail to TSL.
“Dean Lee was personally devoted to ending sexual violence on the campuses, as evidenced by her tireless work convening SAARC (Sexual Assault Awareness and Resources Committee), a special Scripps committee that united students, faculty, and staff working to change the culture of the consortium,” Iker wrote. “Without her support and encouragement, I don’t think I would have felt comfortable starting the Advocates group.”
Sarah Chung SC ’15, who performed Bach’s “Sarabande” on the violin at the candlelight vigil, described her personal connection with Lee.
“Bekki was basically my on-campus mom,” she said. “She was there for all the moments that were meaningful to me. She’d always be at my concerts and my recitals, and sometimes she would just stay after to talk with me for hours about anything and everything. She gave me a lot of life advice that I couldn’t see having come from anyone else.”
Chung said Lee provided crucial guidance to her during the summer after her sophomore year.
“After a summer internship I had at a law firm, I wasn’t quite sure if that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Chung said. “She was one of the people that believed in doing what you love, and to make sure that it’s exactly what you love, so she refuted every other voice that was telling me to just go make money and not worry about anything else.”
“Her lasting legacy at Scripps will be to have continued and enhanced the commitment of the Dean of Students Office to the success, well being, and happiness of every student at the college,” Hansen wrote.
Bettison-Varga noted the outpouring of support from deans and other community members who had been touched by Lee from all of the Claremont Colleges.
“I’ve never felt more blessed on being in the consortium than through this time of great need and support from Dean Lee’s colleagues throughout the 5Cs,” she said in an interview with TSL.
Scripps, in coordination with Lee’s family, is planning a memorial service later this fall. Lee is survived by her husband of 24 years, David E. Hansen; her daughters, Nicole Lee Hansen, age 23, and Emily Lee Hansen, age 16; her parents, Raymond Lee and Ivy Lee; and her three siblings, Pamela Lee, Valerie Lee, and Malcolm Lee.
In lieu of flowers, Lee’s family is requesting donations to the Bekki Lee Memorial Scholarship Endowment, which has been newly established to “honor her lifelong commitment to education, access, and inclusivity,” according to the Scripps website.
Grief counseling is available through Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services and the Chaplains of the Claremont Colleges.