Honoring a Mother’s Impact

A gift from Roger Lee ’94 supports Yale School of Nursing. He was inspired by his mother, a pioneering nurse who started one of the first hospice programs in the country.

Roger Lee ’94 recounts childhood memories of going to work with his mother and visiting patients. Gayle Lee was a nurse who, in 1978, cofounded the Cancer Support Team—the first hospice in New York and one of the earliest hospice programs in the country. Today, the organization is a vital resource that serves over 700 patients annually, as well as their families, friends, and caregivers.

In honor of Gayle Lee’s legacy, Roger recently made a $5 million gift to Yale School of Nursing (YSN). The extraordinary commitment is Lee’s first to YSN and the second-largest single gift in the school’s nearly 100-year history. The gift will support a variety of teaching and research activities at YSN.

Gayle Lee’s work and impact align with YSN’s expertise. Former YSN dean Florence S. Wald ’41 MN, ’56 MS first introduced the hospice model to the United States.

“This gift is the intersection of two things that mean a lot to me: my mother and Yale,” Lee says. “I would not be in the position to do this but for the fact that Yale made a bet on me twenty-four years ago, and I want to pay that back as best I can.”

“We are deeply grateful for Roger’s gift, made in memory of his pioneering mother,” says Ann Kurth ’90 MSN, dean of the Yale School of Nursing. “ Her work has benefitted countless patients and their families. This gift will support Yale’s nursing education, commemorate Gayle Lee’s inspirational legacy, and help advance our mission of better health for all people—at every stage of life.”

Gayle Lee
Gayle Lee
Gayle Lee
Gayle Lee

A Leader and An Innovator

“My mother saw the inadequacies of the existing model for end-of-life healthcare and patient support and wanted to do something different,” Roger Lee says. “She recognized that these patients were at the most vulnerable and challenging point of their lives, and she wanted to make their final days as comfortable as possible.

“It’s a very different skillset, to serve someone who is terminally ill versus providing other kinds of care. It requires a certain delicacy to work with patients who know they have limited time left. Her ability to connect and make them comfortable was her real calling.”

Lee’s father—John Lee ’58, for whom Yale’s basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics facility, the John J. Lee Amphitheater in Payne Whitney Gymnasium, is named—is remembered for his athletic prowess, leadership skills, and devotion to Yale. Gayle’s trailblazing took a different shape but made no less of an impression on Roger while growing up.

“She was really a leader and an innovator in her own right,” he reflects. “When she started the first hospice in New York in the mid-1970s, it was a very controversial new way of thinking about healthcare and patient service. I was always inspired by her dedication to others, and she set a strong example for a lot of the things I’ve tried to do in my own life.”

Galvanizing Support

Comprising both endowment and current-use funds, the gift will support innovative online education, teaching and research activities as they relate to palliative care, and the Dean’s Discretionary Fund. To recognize the gift, the School of Nursing will name its student hub in memory of Gayle Lee.

“I hope that it can galvanize more support for the nursing school during the For Humanity campaign,” Lee says. “If there’s one thing we have all learned during Covid, it’s how vital a role nurses play. Improving the resources and opportunities Yale nurses have is a great use of this gift.”

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