Che Fu Lee, Ph. D.
Feb. 23, 2005
CUA Community Mourns Death of Long-time Sociology Professor Che-Fu Lee
Taiwan Native was Instrumental in Bringing Study of Sociology Back to Mainland China
Potomac, Md., resident Che-Fu Lee, professor of sociology at The Catholic University of America, died on Feb. 9, 2005. The 63-year-old had been hospitalized for pneumonia and seemed to be improving when he died of heart failure.
Lee was known as a respected scholar and inspiring teacher during his 34-year tenure at CUA. He was the author of more than 70 articles, books, book chapters and papers, and was awarded multiple research grants and contracts from various government agencies. His main research interests centered on quantitative methods and demography. In 1975-76 he lectured in Iran as a senior adviser for population and development, a position sponsored by the United Nations. His other research interests ranged widely, from drug abuse, health care and education to international development.
Lee held memberships in the American Sociological Association, Population Association of America, American Academy of Political and Social Sciences and North American Association of Chinese Sociologists. In 1981 he received the Emory Borgardus Award for research from Alpha Kappa Delta, an international sociology honor society, at their 11th Annual Sociological Research Symposium.
In his later years he devoted much of his energy to the analysis of social change in China. Lee and his colleague at Nankai University in Tianjin, China, were instrumental in re-starting sociology programs in mainland China in the 1980's.
“The rapid growth of sociology as an empirical discipline and of demography in China was largely due to this group of pioneers who encouraged mutual exchanges by experts in these academic disciplines,” said CUA Sociology Professor Dean Hoge.
During the past decade Lee traveled to China about once a year, at times being commissioned by the leaders of various agencies in the People’s Republic of China to advise them on specific topics such as minority groups, literacy and tourism.
He strove for years to improve relations between Taiwan and the PRC. According to Hoge, he succeeded in winning the confidence of government leaders on both sides in their attempt to resolve conflict and improve cooperation.
Lee was born in Taiwan on December 5, 1941. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural engineering from the National Taiwan University in 1963. He came to the United States for graduate work in the area of sociology, earning the Master of Arts degree from Oklahoma State University in 1967 and the Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1971.
He then joined the faculty at The Catholic University of America, where he taught until his death. He served as chair of the Department of Sociology from 1984 to 1985 and again from 1996 to 2002. He was appointed director of the Life Cycle Institute (a social science research center) and served in that post from 1985 to 1988.
At the time of Lee’s death he was working on a book about the demographic profile of China. Given his research experience in many areas of sociology, he became an adviser to numerous graduate students during his tenure at CUA. Known for his patience, he was appreciated so much by his former students that many who had graduated years ago traveled cross-country to attend his funeral, held Feb. 15 in Washington, D.C.
“He was a committed faculty member, a popular and effective teacher, a prolific scholar, an effective mentor of doctoral students and a good colleague,” CUA Provost John Convey said in his eulogy for Lee. “Professors live on through their writings and they live on in a much more personal way in the minds and hearts of their students. Over the years, Che-Fu Lee touched the lives of many students who will never forget him,” Convey said.
Lee is survived by his wife, Ling, his two daughters, Conn Lee Martin of Garrett Park, Md., and Tien Lee Pasco, of Washington, D.C., and six grandchildren.