Born in Seattle in 1928, Lee graduated from O’Dea High School and then went on to earn a business degree from Seattle University in 1950. Here he met his wife of 61 years, Jeanne Marie.
In his youth, Lee worked at the hotel properties owned by his father, Rhoady Lee, Sr. Following employment at Boeing, he and his family purchased a small sand and gravel company and later an asphalt paving business that is known today as Lakeside Industries. The company has 650 employees with locations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
Lee was a successful business owner defined by family, his faith and generosity. A dedicated alumnus and friend of the university, Lee’s commitment to SU “was boundless and unwavering,” said President Stephen Sundborg, S.J.
“Rhoady was instrumental in shaping the university as we know it today. The Lees had a hand in enriching and making possible so many aspects of the Seattle University experience,” Father Sundborg said, noting the family’s support of many of the university’s most recognized buildings and learning spaces including the Casey Building,
the Quad and Upper Mall, Chapel of St. Ignatius and the Student Center.
Lee served on SU’s Alumni Board of Governors, the President’s Club Steering Committee and the Board of Trustees. He was also chair of the $10 million campaign for the Sullivan Leadership Endowment.
In 1985, he was named the first Alumnus of the Year, and in 1997 he and Jeanne Marie received honorary doctorates from the university. And in another first, a decade later the couple received the St. Ignatius Medal, the university’s highest honor for service. He was also active with the Forest Ridge School and through the years chaired many capital campaigns.
The Jeanne Marie and Rhoady Lee Jr. Center for the Arts, which was completed in 2006, is “a living tribute to the Lees and all that they have meant to our university,” Fr. Sundborg said of the center built largely through the generosity of Jeanne Marie and Rhoady's children, who themselves have extended their family's great legacy of support for Seattle University.
A devoted friend, family man and mentor to many, Lee loved to spend time outdoors with loved ones, whether it was fly fishing in Alaska, skiing Mt. Baldy or riding horses and raising cattle in Idaho’s Wood River Valley.
Family recall that when people asked Lee how he was, his response was always the same: “Any better I couldn’t stand it.”
Rhoady is survived by his wife Jeanne Marie; his children Sharon, Rhoady III, Timothy, Maureen, Mary Pat and Michael and their partners and spouses; his sister Sheila; and 15 grandchildren.
Rhoady Lee, Jr., his wife Jeanne and President Stephen Sundborg at the 2007 Gala, where Rhoady and Jeanne were awarded the first St. Ignatius Medal.