Written by Cynthia Chen
On April 28, Dr. Henry Lee spoke at a seminar in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May. The seminar was organized by CAPA MC, Thomas Wootton HS PTSA Asian Pacific Student Network, Calvin J Li Memorial Foundation, and the City of Rockville Asian task force.
Dr. Lee is one of the top ten most famous forensic scientists. Over the course of his career, he has worked on over 8000 cases in 47 different countries. Some of his more famous cases include the O.J. Simpson case, the Levy homicide case, and the JonBenet Ramsey case.
Dr. Lee was born in China in 1938 and is now 84 years old. When he first arrived in the U.S. in 1965, he had to work three jobs simultaneously: work at NYU medical center, be a waiter at restaurant, and teach self-defense in order to raise his family of two kids (a son and a daughter). In 1974, he received his PhD in molecular biology. Since the commencement ceremony cost money, Dr. Lee graduated at home.
He then went to New Jersey, where he was drawn toward forensic science and desired to help develop the field. Dr. Lee also has 30 honorary degrees, including one in music, but notes that he can not sing.
He is now a distinguished professor at University of New Haven and the Chief Emeritus of the Connecticut State Police. Dr. Lee works for about 16 hours a day. He barely gets any vacation time, even on holidays.
Dr. Lee has given more than 10,000 lectures in over 70 countries. Despite the language barrier, he is still widely acclaimed in foreign countries. Lee says that at first, he had no idea what anyone was saying and no one had any idea what he was saying, but even so, people still kept inviting him back.
In 1949, when Dr. Lee was six or seven, his father died in a shipwreck, leaving only his mother to raise 13 children alone. Whenever he is asked who he respects the most, he always answers his mother. Whenever he is asked who he fears the most, he also answers his mother. His mother taught him the power of knowledge, the importance of positive thinking, the advantage of self reliance, and the strength of teamwork. His mother also inspired him to “break glass ceilings”.
Dr. Lee believes that hard work and effort form success, which leads to prosperity. His motto is to “make the impossible become possible”. He advises others to strive for the best and to not set oneself up for failure. He believes that in the face of difficulty, the last thing one should ever do is give up.
His motto is to “make the impossible become possible”.
The cases that have left the most profound impact on Dr. Lee are the ones where he can help the less fortunate. He cited the case of a poor and helpless family that had a 72 year old grandma, disabled son, and granddaughter all murdered. In another case, a mom came up to him saying “you’re our last hope”. Her daughter was murdered 40 years ago and the case was never solved. When Dr. Lee solved the case, she was so happy that she cried.
For those interested in a career in crime investigation, he urges them to try to work for the state or federal government. He also advises that the computer crime field is best for getting a job.
Dr. Lee has truly left his mark both on the forensic science field as well as the world. We hope that his talk inspired many to “make the impossible become possible”.
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 19 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.