UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Last January, Corey Lee made a list of goals he wanted to accomplish in the year ahead. Some — create more family memories, earn a promotion, strengthen close relationships — were fairly common. One goal, however, was less so.
Lees establish educational equity scholarship at IST
“I set a goal at the beginning of the year to create a scholarship,” said Lee, who earned his bachelor’s degree in security and risk analysis from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) in 2012 and now works as an enterprise security executive with Microsoft in Washington, D.C. “I wanted to find ways to give back to my community and individuals who need support to reach opportunities that may not be within their grasp.”
He was able to reach his goal in October when he created the “Corey Lee Family Scholarship” with his wife, Leteace — a 2012 graduate from Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development — and their two daughters. Corey created the scholarship in memory of Jimmy Brown, a friend and 2012 IST alumnus who passed away in 2019 and was, according to Corey, “always positive, full of joy and dedicated to helping others.”
“This gift is a testament to the Lees’ experience at Penn State, specifically to Corey’s at the College of IST and the impact that experience had on him,” said Andrew Sears, dean of the College of IST. “We are grateful that they, as alumni, are honoring their experience in an impactful way that will support a new generation of IST students.”
The scholarship was matched dollar-for-dollar by the College of Information Sciences and Technology Dean’s Advisory Board and supports IST students with financial need who are first-generation or from underrepresented backgrounds.
“Scholarship support is the college’s highest philanthropic priority and we are grateful for Corey and Leteace’s commitment to supporting our current and future students,” said Mike Weyandt, director of development at the College of IST. “It will not only allow us to support a diverse group of students, it will help lessen the financial burden that many of our students endure.”
“Finances are typically the biggest barrier for students to attend college,” said Corey. “I didn’t come from a lot. I’m a first-generation student. I come from a diverse background. But it’s not enough for people just to see an example in me; they need an opportunity.”
“There are fleeting moments in life where the trajectory of your future changes,” added Leteace, a mother/baby registered nurse and lactation consultant who works to improve breastfeeding rates and reduce disparities among high-risk populations. “The generosity of mentors, advisers and supporters afforded me the opportunity to become a college graduate. Investing in others is one way we believe we can make a difference in future generations.”
Corey’s journey to Penn State started in the criminology program in the College of the Liberal Arts. He liked solving problems and thought he would be a good detective. After an adviser introduced him to the College of IST, however, the Bunton-Waller and Schreyer Scholar found a new path.
“All of my SRA classes interested me. I learned all the different aspects of analytics, economics, computer science and risk analysis,” Corey said. “To put all those pieces together and see technology through these different lenses, they were all practical to my degree and to my life.”
An “analytical person at heart,” Corey noted he gained a more holistic education through that diversity of classes and study abroad experiences in Argentina and China. Once he better understood how to break down complex problems through a global perspective, it fueled his interests and abilities to solve them.
That mindset helped him on his mission to solve a new problem — what’s the best way to give back? — which was expedited amid the recent national climate of “negativity and gloom,” as he described it.
“The global pandemic, a recession, people are losing their jobs. There’s social unrest and political division,” he explained. “I’m extremely blessed to be in the position I’m in, and it felt like the right time for me to infuse some positivity into the world.”
With a significant item crossed off his annual to-do list, Corey said he hopes his scholarship has a far-reaching impact.
“As more educational access is opened up for more people, we create more diverse and inclusive corporate environments which have a greater impact throughout society,” Corey said. “Once students are given an opportunity, they can do wonders with it.”
This gift will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.