IJ Clinic Director Patricia Lee Named Entrepreneur of the Year
By Chip Mellor
Entrepreneurs make things happen. They leave the world around them a different place, setting in motion events that touch peoples’ lives in ways large and small. Entrepreneurs surmount adversity and create solutions to problems others have deemed hopeless. By their very nature, they are optimists whose passion and vision inspire people they encounter.
Pat Lee is an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. As the director of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School, she pioneered a nationally acclaimed program that provides hope and opportunity to inner-city entrepreneurs seeking the first rung on the economic ladder. This program is unique among law school clinics nationwide. Pat inspires students who represent aspiring entrepreneurs, earning praise such as the following from Dan Liljenquist, a graduate of the Class of 2001: “Gratitude unexpressed is not truly gratitude. I want to thank you for being a mentor and a friend to me over the past two years. Working with you in the IJ Clinic has made law school not only bearable, but wonderfully rewarding. I plan on serving the public with the same vigor for the rest of my life. Thank you for your stellar example in that respect, and in so many other ways….” No wonder there were 176 students who signed up for the 16 spaces in the Clinic next fall.
Staff, clients and friends were in attendance to congratulate Pat Lee as she received the “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” for her work in community service.
Pat’s amazing accomplishments received well-deserved recognition last month when the accounting firm of Ernst & Young bestowed upon her its prestigious “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” for her work in community service. At a black tie dinner attended by several hundred people, Pat received the award and will now go on to the International Award competition this fall. A particularly moving moment occurred during the ceremonies when Rich Niemiec, who won “Entrepreneur of the Year” for high tech, said, “The last person I have to thank is somebody I don’t even know and that is Patricia Lee.” He paused dramatically and said, “I grew up on the south side of Chicago on welfare with eight other kids that my mom raised, and somebody like Patricia Lee took the time for me. So Patricia, not bad for a welfare kid.” The audience erupted in thunderous applause.
Chip Mellor is the Institute for Justice’s president and general counsel.