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Tone Lee

Tone Lee

Lee Family Donates $1M to the School of Education and Counseling Psychology

Lee family honors Tone Yao Lee '22

The Lee family seeks to honor Tone Yao Lee’s life and legacy by supporting students whose focus is the mental health and well-being of young people.

Lee Family Donates $1M to the

School of Education and Counseling Psychology

The Lee family seeks to honor Tone Yao Lee’s life and legacy by supporting students whose focus is the mental health and well-being of young people. The Lee family has made a generous $1M donation to fund scholarships, research, and public outreach in the School of Education and Counseling Psychology, with a focus on the well-being of children and adolescents, especially those suffering from depression. 

“Selfless,” “giving,'' “caring,” “a dear friend,” “a natural leader”: these are the terms so many have used to describe Tone (‘22). Tone embodied our Jesuit values and commitment to forming men and women for others. His dedication to helping others was an essential part of who he was. 

Tone was born in Singapore, and lived the majority of his life in the Bay Area, attending schools in San Jose and Palo Alto. Throughout his adolescence and young adulthood, he became a strong leader and solidified a commitment to service: he was engaged in student leadership, actively spoke on campus, and participated in service trips to Guatemala and Mexico to help build and paint homes for underprivileged families. 

Unfortunately, the tragic loss of three high school friends during his high school years had a devastating and lasting impact on him. Over time, that turned into a clinical depression. While still in high school, he wrote an article in which he explains the importance of speaking up for oneself and reaching out for professional help. Tone struggled, but was tenacious in his efforts to overcome depression, embarking on a strenuous journey to recovery. He started running, weight lifting, and writing a journal to keep up his spirits and stay healthy. He began to speak out against the stigma associated with depression, serving as a voice for those suffering from mental health challenges, and he sought the help of mental health professionals. As an outspoken mental health advocate at Santa Clara University, he touched the lives of many. 

Tone never stopped giving and caring for others despite all the challenges and struggles that he faced on his own. He initiated fundraisers and raised more than $3500 to purchase sleeping bags and care packages for the unhoused in Downtown San Jose. He also organized a fundraiser to provide immediate and long-term relief to areas impacted by COVID-19. His extensive efforts were recognized and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity. Separately, he volunteered for Estrella Family Services, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support and care to children and families in Santa Clara County. Tone’s impact and influence were felt deeply on campus and in the broader community. 

Tone was also an outstanding student at Santa Clara University. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a major in Finance from the Leavey School of Business. He was thereafter accepted into Leavey’s “4+1” Masters program for graduate studies and offered consecutive internships in high-tech companies. 

Tone had made great strides in improving his mental health: engaging in therapy, ensuring a healthy lifestyle and physical fitness, and also by engaging the community through philanthropy. His positive experiences working with his therapist taught him the value of professional mental health treatments and he contemplated changing his professional direction and potentially becoming a therapist himself. To begin, he earned a Registered Behavior Technician license to volunteer after class at the Center for Learning & Autism Support Services to aid children with developmental disabilities.

Tone ultimately succumbed to his depression after relentlessly battling it for six years. In his life and work, he exemplified an unwavering devotion to giving and caring for others. Because of his passion for helping others and his growing interest in a potential career in mental health care, the Lee family has made this gift to support students who are committed to serving young people, especially those suffering from depression.

Their gift will endow (a) the Tone Yao Lee Counseling Psychology Scholarship Fund, (b) the Tone Yao Lee Education Scholarship Fund, and (c) the Tone Yao Lee Child and Adolescent Mental Health Research Fund. As endowments, these funds will support students in perpetuity, and their impact will ultimately affect hundreds of students and thousands of their patients or students. In appreciation for this gift, we have renamed the student lounge area on the second floor of Guadalupe Hall as the Tone Yao Lee Student Lounge. A bench located outside of the Dowd Art and Art History Building, which Tone found an especially peaceful campus space, has also been renamed in his honor. 

The mental health needs of young people have never been greater. With the added stress of the pandemic and isolation, we are finding that young people are at heightened risk for severe depression and anxiety. The Tone Yao Lee Endowment will help the School of Education and Counseling Psychology and Santa Clara University establish itself both as a leading preparer of high-quality therapists and a public voice advocating for the needs of young people. Gifts such as this from the Lee family – both big and small – can have an enormous positive impact on the lives and futures of our youth. 

If you are interested in contributing to this cause, either reach out to Dean Sabrina Zirkel ( or donate directly to the Tone Yao Lee Education Fund, the Tone Yao Lee Counseling Psychology Fund, or the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Research Fund

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