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Monday, November 12, 2018

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Servant of all


When a friend needed someone to help him reach out to a special child with fun and compassion, Andrew Lee was there.

When a younger brother needed a close friend and companion, Andrew Lee was there.

When a medical center needed energetic and selfless volunteers to help in rehabilitation programs, Andrew Lee was there.

Those who had the good fortune of knowing health and human performance senior Seungjune Lee, the student found dead Tuesday in his Cullen Oaks apartment, describe him as a quiet, sweet man and a devout Christian who cared deeply for others.

"He was just really nice. He was trusting of people, not jaded and not cynical," Lee’s brother, Benny Lee, said. "He was very… maybe too gentle for the real world, almost."

Benny Lee, who recently turned 21, said his 26-year-old brother, who went by Andrew, was more like a good friend of the same age.

"Especially the past few years, we’ve gotten a lot closer," he said. "He had a very young heart, I think that’s the reason why we became friends. Even though he was older than me, he was very young at heart."

Close friend and communication disorders graduate student Daniel Hernandez said those who took the time to get to know Andrew Lee found a warm, caring person with a subtle sense of humor.

"Although he wasn’t the most talkative guy, he was a really good person," he said. "The people that got to know him were very glad that they did."

A caring heart

Andrew Lee was seeking a degree in health and human performance as a means of making a difference in others’ lives, Hernandez said.

"Andrew was a truly selfless person, and he chose to pursue a career in the health field because all he ever wanted to do was help people," he said.

Hernandez related a story from last summer when he asked Andrew to help him reward a young boy under his care in speech therapy who was also an avid football fan.

"As an incentive, the last day we decided to play football, and I needed another person to help me out," Hernandez said. "We played one-on-one football – the kid loved it."

Such stories are perfect examples of his friend’s character, Hernandez said.

"That’s just who he was. That was the epitome of Andrew – he was just the most caring and selfless person," he said. "All he wanted to do was help somebody."

Benny Lee, a biochemistry sophomore at the University of Texas, said his brother always made serving others a priority in his career plans.

"He really wanted to do something that helped people," he said. "Before that, he was thinking about being a doctor – he just wanted to do something that would help people that couldn’t help themselves."

Hernandez said he met Andrew in 2004 when the two shared six communication disorders classes over two semesters, and the friends often studied and went to the gym together. The duo remained close even after Andrew Lee switched to a health focus, catching up on each other’s lives every few weeks.

"He had kind of shifted gears throughout the years, but he always knew it would be something where he would help people," he said.

A strong faith

"The Andrew I knew was a great man," Hernandez said. "He was also a man of strong faith. He was a devout Christian; however, he never imposed his views on others."

Although Andrew Lee was never pushy about his faith, he talked of it readily and often went to the Bible with any problems in his life, Hernandez said.

"He would pray for me, too," he said. "He would pray for his friends and family."

Benny Lee said his brother began attending church during his early teen years and that religion had become a major part of his life.

"It’s something that’s been part of him forever," he said. "His faith was really strong as far as Christianity goes."

Andrew Lee attended a house church in the Houston area, where members said he would read verses such as 1 Thessalonians 5: 8-11, which addresses the importance of encouraging others and the hope believers have in Christ.

"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ," part of the passage reads. "He died for us that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him."

A helping hand

Hernandez also said Andrew Lee was a talented singer and dedicated to personal fitness.

"He could be found in the campus recreation center swimming laps or pumping iron about four to five days a week," he said.

Andrew Lee even turned his love of exercise to charitable causes. In February, he began volunteering at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research at Memorial Hermann, helping individuals with disabilities utilize the facility’s gym to keep up their strength training.

"Andrew would work with them, assisting them with getting on the equipment and doing whatever needed to be done," Barbara Sherwood, manager of volunteer services, said. "He genuinely wanted to give to the community…. He was telling my assistant how much he enjoyed being here and how he liked what he was doing. He felt very gratified to be working with our patient population."

No sign of trouble

Benny Lee said his brother was busy with preparations for his graduation in May and his wedding in December at the time of his death.

His fiancee is living out of the country and was unable to be reached.

Andrew Lee’s mother had spoken with him over the phone on April 19, five days before maintenance personnel found his body in his Cullen Oaks apartment, Benny Lee said.

"She said he was just lively as ever and really excited," he said. "He was just lively, he was good."

The brothers’ parents are living in South Korea, and it fell to Benny Lee to inform them of his brother’s death, which made the situation especially difficult, he said.

Benny Lee said the last time he saw his brother was over the winter break.

"We were supposed to take a spring break trip together, but he just got too busy and it didn’t work out," he said.

Hernandez said he had called Andrew Lee on April 16 to discuss the shock of the Virginia Tech tragedy and hadn’t received a response. He became very concerned after a week went by, especially after the University released a brief statement Tuesday saying a then-unnamed student had been found dead in an apartment.

"When I got the e-mail, I started to get concerned because I hadn’t been able to get a hold of him, and he was always real good about returning my phone calls," he said.

Hernandez said Andrew had a profound effect on everyone he encountered.

"The people who really knew him realize how he was such a genuine person," he said. "Words are not sufficient to capture the breadth and depth of Andrew Lee, but words are all I have to share this amazing person’s life with those who did not have the honor of knowing him."


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