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Reginald Van Lee

Management consultant Reginald Van Lee was born on May 8, 1958 in Houston, Texas to Tommie Lee and Eva Elnora Jefferson Lee. Van Lee received his B.S. degree in engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1979; and, in 1980, he earned his M.S. degree in civil engineering from MIT. Upon graduation, Van Lee was hired by Exxon Production Research Company as a research engineer. In 1982, he entered the M.B.A. program at Harvard Business School, and he interned at Booz Allen Hamilton during the summer of 1983. In 1984, after graduating with his M.B.A. degree in business administration, Van Lee was hired at Booz Allen Hamilton.

In 1993, Van Lee was promoted to partner at the Booz Allen Hamilton; and in 2003, he was promoted to senior partner. Van Lee leads Booz Allen Hamilton’s health and not-for-profit businesses, where he has helped numerous private and public health organizations and not-for-profit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and the American Cancer Society. As an industry expert on strategy implementation, Van Lee has contributed a number of articles on the topic. His articles have appeared in The Journal of Business Strategy and Business Horizons. Van Lee also co-authored the book, Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business, and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today’s Global Challenges Together. He has appeared on ABC-TV’s “World News This Morning” and CNBC, and co-led the Urban Enterprise Initiative with the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, where he focused on driving enhanced competitiveness for small businesses in Harlem. Van Lee is also a founding member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

Van Lee’s many recognitions include the 2008 Black Engineer of the Year Award and New York University’s C. Walter Nichols Award for community service. He was also chosen as one of the 2009 Washington Minority Business Leaders by the Washington Business Journal. Van Lee served as chairman emeritus of the board of the Evidence Dance Company, trustee of the Studio Museum in Harlem, and chairman of the Washington Performing Arts Society. In 2008, he was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Reginald Van Lee was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 14, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.149

Sex

Male

Interview Date
9/14/2012
Last Name

Van Lee

Maker Category
Schools
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Harvard Business School
James R. Reynolds Elementary School
Crispus Attucks Middle
Carter G. Woodson K-8 School
Evan E. Worthing Senior High School
First Name

Reggie

Birth City, State, Country

Houston

HM ID

VAN06

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

The Two Most Important Days In Your Life Are The Day You Were Born And The Day You Understand Why.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/8/1958

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Management consultant Reginald Van Lee (1958 - ) is an executive vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Employment
Exxon Mobil
Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reginald Van Lee's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reginald Van Lee lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reginald Van Lee describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reginald Van Lee describes his mother's childhood in Houston, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reginald Van Lee describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reginald Van Lee describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reginald Van Lee describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reginald Van Lee lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reginald Van Lee describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reginald Van Lee describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Reginald Van Lee remembers James R. Reynolds Elementary School in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reginald Van Lee describes his childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reginald Van Lee remembers his mother's parenting style

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reginald Van Lee recalls his junior high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reginald Van Lee talks about his family's influence

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reginald Van Lee remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reginald Van Lee describes his early academic success

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reginald Van Lee talks about his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reginald Van Lee remembers Evan E. Worthing High School in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reginald Van Lee remembers developing an interest in engineering

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reginald Van Lee remembers entering the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reginald Van Lee describes his experiences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reginald Van Lee describes the racial makeup of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reginald Van Lee remembers his influential professors

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reginald Van Lee describes the racial tensions in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reginald Van Lee remembers the black community at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reginald Van Lee recalls his mentors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reginald Van Lee recalls earning a master's degree from at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reginald Van Lee recalls the start of his career at the Exxon Mobil Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reginald Van Lee recalls his decision to attend the Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reginald Van Lee remembers enrolling at the Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reginald Van Lee describes the black student community at Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reginald Van Lee remembers his coursework at the Harvard Business School

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reginald Van Lee recalls his start at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reginald Van Lee talks about his mother's role in his success

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reginald Van Lee describes his early career at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reginald Van Lee remembers his projects at Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reginald Van Lee describes the highlights of his career at Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reginald Van Lee describes the Harlem Small Business Initiative, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reginald Van Lee describes the Harlem Small Business Initiative, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reginald Van Lee describes the formation of the Urban Enterprise Initiative

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reginald Van Lee talks about his awards and recognitions

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reginald Van Lee remembers coauthoring 'Megacommunities'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reginald Van Lee describes his involvement in the arts

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reginald Van Lee talks about his career plans

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reginald Van Lee reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Reginald Van Lee reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Reginald Van Lee describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Reginald Van Lee describes how he met his husband, Corey McCathern

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Reginald Van Lee describes his wedding

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Reginald Van Lee talks about his racial and sexual identity

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Reginald Van Lee describes his parents' views on his sexuality

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Reginald Van Lee describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Reginald Van Lee narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

9$1

DATitle
Reginald Van Lee remembers developing an interest in engineering
Reginald Van Lee describes the Harlem Small Business Initiative, pt. 2
Transcript
In high school had you figured that you were going to become an engineer, in high school?$$When I was in the eighth grade, I was watching 'Star Trek,' well actually when I was in kindergarten I told my mother I wanted to be an artist and she said, "Well artists starve so you need to be something else like an architect." So from kindergarten to eighth grade I was going to be an architect. Then in eighth grade my mother said, "Well the latest thing is engineering so you should be an engineer. You can be an architectural engineer but you need to be an engineer." I was very obedient, my mother said do it, made sense to me. So I'm watching 'Star Trek' and this guy comes on the USS Enterprise who had gone to MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts], Ph.D. MIT, master's [degree] MIT all this stuff and they were, Captain Kirk [James T. Kirk] and Mr. Spock were like bowing to this guy like he was a deity and to me Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock were deities. So if they are bowing to this guy he must be something. So I asked my mother, "What is MIT?" Actually to my surprise she said, "It's a school of engineering in Massachusetts." And I said, "Well I want to go to MIT," and she says, "You're going to MIT," just like that. So she called the school and they sent the bulletins. When the recruiters came from MIT they didn't come to my little black high school, they came to I think Rice University [Houston, Texas] or something. My parents [Eva Jefferson Lee and Tommie Lee] put me in the car and we went over to meet the recruiters and I did the interviewing and everything filled out the forms and wrote the essays and then I went to MIT. So that's what got me--my mother got me interested in engineering and at that time, once I really did my research, I discovered that MIT was the best engineering school in the world, highest rated. So that's where I went to school.$$So counseling played virtually no role in this, I guess?$$No as a matter of fact not Mrs. Freddie Gaines [ph.], my senior counselor who is very encouraging, but one of the other counselors basically told me that I should go to University of Houston [Houston, Texas] or Texas Southern [Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas] or maybe University of Texas [University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas] because while I was smart for Worthing High School [Evan E. Worthing High School, Houston, Texas], you know, I probably wouldn't be smart enough to compete with those other kids and she didn't want me to go and be disappointed, she didn't want me to feel failure. So she felt she was protecting me. As you can imagine once I got my MIT degree I went back and showed her the degree and said, "Thank you for the encouragement because I decided that I had to go to MIT and graduate after you were so discouraging to me."$$Now this is a white counselor?$$No this is a black counselor, black counselor, yeah (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Black counselor, okay, interesting so was Worthing High School mostly black since it was closer to the neighborhood?$$Yeah, yep, at the time I graduated because we'd gone through the majority/minority zoning sort of thing, we had probably twenty white students and maybe twenty or thirty Hispanic students, but it was more than predominantly black.$$Okay. So you graduated in what nineteen seventy- (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Seventy-five. [1975].$$Seventy-five [1975].$Yeah we were talking about the small business initiative [Harlem Small Business Initiative; Urban Enterprise Initiative] in Harlem [New York, New York], and--$$And, so the small businesses came to the president [President William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton] and said, "We need your help so that we can continue to be competitive and live and grow in Harlem." So the president went to a number of consulting firms to ask them if they would do this pro bono and we wanted to do this partnership as a collaborative approach. So we had the Clinton Foundation [New York, New York], we had the Harlem Small Business Alliance [sic. Harlem Business Alliance, New York, New York], we had Congressman Charlie Rangel's [HistoryMaker Charles B. Rangel] office, we had Columbia University [New York, New York], we had New York University [New York, New York], we had the National Black MBAs [National Black MBA Association], we had Booz Allen Hamilton [Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.] all working together with these small businesses to add different resources as we could deliver to them. We did the technical assistance and the consulting thing. We had attorneys to give them legal help on their leases, on their rent. We had the M.B.A.s to give us some leverage of students doing analysis, et cetera. And what we did was to create a program that actually changed the lives of many small businesses in Harlem. Several hundred have gone through the program now since 2001. We started with ten pilot businesses and it's interesting because when we first started looking at who would be good candidates for this program we said well we want the program to run for almost two years so we have enough time to really help them and test the results and see the progress we've made. So let's make sure that the businesses either own their building or they have at least a two year lease. We discovered that some 80 percent of the businesses of Harlem at that time operated on a month to month lease. So at any point a landlord could say, "I can get more for this, you've got thirty days, you've got to get out," right. And they were okay with that in the lean years because they didn't want to sign a long term lease and go out of business in a couple of months and still be stuck with having to pay the lease. So it was a good deal for them and it was a good deal for the landlords at the time. But long story made short, we worked with the businesses to bring just modern management 101 techniques to them, inventory management, receptionists for people, marketing plans, business plans, analysis of their consumer base through surveys, just very simple things; and we turned some businesses around.