Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa

Thai Lee is the president and CEO of SHI International Corp., a global provider of information technology software, hardware and professional services. A native of Korea, Thai Lee and her older sister Margaret Lee attended high school in Amherst, where they lived with Willard Weeks ’51, who was a friend of their father, Daniel Kie-Hong Lee ’50. Margaret, a member of the Class of 1978, was the first Korean woman to graduate from Amherst, and Thai graduated with the college’s first fully coed class in 1980. A double major in biology and economics, she went on to earn her MBA at Harvard Business School in 1985, becoming the first Korean woman to do so.

From the mid-to-late-1980s, Lee rapidly moved up through the management ranks at various corporations before purchasing a small division of a company called Software House in 1989. Initially conceived as a regional software reseller, Software House, now known as SHI International Corp., has nimbly shifted focus as its clients have evolved; it is currently making its mark in the world of cloud computing. SHI is one of the largest 100-percent-minority-owned companies in the U.S., now worth $5 billion. . In June 2012, Lee received an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for New Jersey in the technology category. Last year, she won an Alumni Achievement Award from Harvard Business School.

Beyond developing a highly successful business model, Lee has cultivated a progressive and supportive work culture that focuses on employee training, advancement and work-life balance. Equally busy outside of work, she is the mother of two children and a member of the board of directors of The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. She has also remained highly involved with Amherst, serving as a term trustee of the college from 1993 to 1999 and as president of the Society of the Alumni from 2004 to 2005.