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Jan 6, 2017 2017-01 Accountancy Student

A Legacy of Giving Back: Grace Lee

Accounting junior Grace Lee is passionate about philanthropy. She has held several leadership positions in university-affiliated organizations that have focused on philanthropy, and she just finished up a term as president of Legacy, the student organization in the College of Business that promotes awareness about the impact that philanthropic support can have on the College and that encourages business students to give back to the College. Her interest in philanthropy stems from personal experience. Lee is herself a recipient of several endowed scholarships throughout her undergraduate career that have enabled her to continue her Illinois education. The generosity of donors through these scholarships has had a direct impact on her education. “They’ve been a tremendous part of my college experience,” Lee said. “They enabled me to come to this school. . . . It was a major part of my decision to come here.” It was in seeing firsthand the impact that the generosity of others can have that prompted Lee to work to give back to the school that has given her so much. Her desire to give back led Lee to several avenues within the University of Illinois to engage in efforts to encourage students to give back. She joined Legacy while a freshman. At the time the membership was fairly low. “We were just and executive board and no other members,” Lee said Working with College of Business staff, Lee and the other members of the board worked to increase membership and awareness of the organization. By the time Lee became president in 2016, membership had grown to over 80 members. As it has grown, Lee has been involved in establishing bylaws, organizing member recruitment, and working with College staff to organize events. “I have worked closely with Grace in her role as president of Legacy,” said Haruka Neiswender, assistant director of alumni affairs in the College of Business. “Under her leadership, Legacy has doubled in size, and she has successfully developed an executive team as well as a point participation system for members. Grace’s strong leadership skills and passion for the College of Business has set a powerful example for all students in the College.” When Lee became president of Legacy, she set out to find a project that would help students get excited about philanthropy to the College, a project everyone could get behind. Turns out, it was tables. Through some surveys that Legacy sent out to students, it was clear that there was a need for someplace where students could work while also being able to charge laptops or smart phones. This project, which Legacy has been working on for a year and a half, has been a great success, and the new tables—which are custom built and will include electrical outlets—are scheduled to be installed before the start of the spring 2017 semester. Legacy is not Lee’s only philanthropic endeavor. She was also the philanthropy chair for her sorority, where she led efforts that raised nearly $27,000 for Autism Speaks, a leading advocacy organization that also sponsors research and outreach for those affected by autism. She was also raised money for Autism Speaks through running in Chicago Marathon. And she has served as philanthropy chair and college relations chair for Business Council. Lee believes that it is importance for students to give back and to understand that it doesn’t need to be a lot to have an impact. “As students, it’s really hard to give now, but if every student is on the same page of being passionate for this school, it only takes a dollar each person to make like $10,000 in the school,” she said. “What I’ve been learning is that if every student was to donate the amount they spend on coffee for one day, that would make a huge impact on this college.”