Theodore “Ted” Bo Lee died peacefully on August 17, 2021, at his home in Las Vegas. He is survived by his children Greg (Dana Su) and Ernest (Tatiana); his grandchildren Graham, Katie, Luke, Harrison, Dylan and Bodie; and his siblings Sandra, Clifford, Bob, Felicia and Danford. He was preceded in death in August 2018 by his beloved wife, Doris.
Ted was born in 1932 in Stockton, California. His father immigrated from Guangdong, China, who began as a butcher and went on to own several local grocery stores. His mother came from a family of local Chinese restaurant owners. As a young man, Ted liked to play basketball and, as the oldest of six children, often worked in his family’s stores.
One of the turning points in Ted’s life took place when he was in high school. A friend asked him where he planned on attending college. When Ted said that he wasn’t sure, his friend suggested he apply to Harvard College. Intrigued by the college suggestion, Ted approached his high school guidance counselor to ask how he would apply to Harvard. The counselor scoffed at the idea. Ted was undeterred.
When Ted called Harvard to ask how to apply, he was told the application deadline had passed. Impressed by Ted’s persistence, the admissions officer agreed to make an exception and review his late application. Ted attended Harvard College and graduated in 1954, a time when few Asians or minorities attended Ivy League schools. Throughout his life, Ted was proud of his self-sufficiency, perseverance, and vision that he used to achieve his goals.
After graduating from Harvard, Lee enlisted in the Army where he worked his way up from cleaning latrines to becoming an army inspector traveling throughout Europe. After his discharge, Ted graduated from law school at University of California Berkley and went onto a fellowship to study at the University of Singapore. Ted lived in Southeast Asia at an unusual time – just before Singapore and Malaysia received independence from the United Kingdom – and recalled the complicated race relations in those countries. While in Singapore, Ted learned that Chinese were excluded from the most prestigious English clubs and successfully pressured the Tanglin Club to accept him as its first non-white member.
The importance of education was at the heart of Ted’s identity, and his achievements in academia remained a source of lifelong pride. After his return from Southeast Asia, he earned an M.B.A. from UC Berkley. He deeply valued the experiences and opportunities his education had provided to him. He endeavored to expand those opportunities to others by serving on the Harvard Board of Overseers and the UC Berkley Foundation. He was deeply involved in the Harvard Asia Center and led a group of boosters in 1980 to take the Harvard Men’s Basketball team to China. Ted was an avid sports fan, who attended Cal football and basketball games for decades.
After a marriage which resulted in the birth of his sons, Greg and Ernest, Ted moved to San Francisco, where he met Doris. Ted and Doris would forge a devoted partnership in family and in business. Together they developed industrial, retail, and multifamily projects in Las Vegas and the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 they entered the casino business, opening the Eureka Casino, a small locals casino on Sahara Avenue near the Las Vegas Strip. This resulted in their move to Las Vegas in 1991. In 1997 they opened the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite, NV, employing more than 550 people.
Ted and Doris would become a fixture in the Las Vegas business and philanthropic community. To support the founding of the Boyd Law School at UNLV, they endowed the first professorship chair, and in recognition of their support of the business school, it was named in their honor. In addition to UNLV, the Lee’s had significant philanthropic involvement with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, the Smith Center for Performing Arts, and the San Francisco Asian Art Museum.
Ted will be remembered for his passion for family, business, philanthropy, and sports. He was unique in his tenacity and straight talk. Those that knew this extraordinary man recognized that if Ted Lee thought he could accomplish something, he almost certainly would.
A memorial service is scheduled for Friday, September 10, 2021. For details visit EurekaMesquite.com/tedlee. In lieu of flowers or if you would like to make a gift in his honor, please consider a gift to a scholarship fund for first generation college students attending the UNLV Lee Business School. Donations can be made at www.unlv.edu/philanthropy/csp