Mike Lee heads to the finish line in a recent 'half-Ironman' where he swam 1.2-miles, biked 56 miles and ran 13.1 miles.
When Mike Lee made the 26-mile trek from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica in the Los Angeles Marathon last month, it was just the latest of 100-plus races he’s run in recent years.
“I like running a lot,” said Lee, director of services and projects for UCLA Social Sciences Computing and triathlete who also plays hoops, hikes, bikes, swims and trains for 140.6-mile swim/ride/run ordeal that is the Ironman.
But on Sunday, March 6, Lee will have to pass on a run that’s very close to his heart — Staff Assembly’s 3rd Annual True Bruin Move and Groove, co-sponsored by the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. That’s because, as the president of UCLA Staff Assembly, he’ll have his hands full as race director, ensuring that the anticipated 1,000 runners and walkers will have a great time as they do a 5K loop around campus.
Still, Lee will get a kick out of overseeing the event, which raises funds for Staff Assembly initiatives like Learn-at-Lunch workshops and career advancement scholarships for staff.
Among the runners on Saturday, Lee happily noted, will be “my dentist,” as he affectionately refers to his wife, Dr. Alison Lee, an alumna of the UCLA School of Dentistry. While she hasn’t been a runner for as long as her husband has, she’s been working hard to get up to speed. Running alongside her will be the couple’s 8-year-old son, Aiden, while his brother Bryce, 7, will be dispensing high-fives along the course.
Both boys are immersed in a variety of sports, deterring them from becoming couch potatoes. Noted their father, “We don’t let them use any electronics yet” — even though Lee’s job is all about electronics.
And it’s a job he loves as associate director of a team of nearly two dozen IT staff working 24/7 to keep nearly 2,500 computers in the Division of Social Sciences and its 17 academic departments humming.
“I have probably spent more time at UCLA than anywhere else,” said Lee, who has been a Bruin for 19 years, ever since he arrived on campus in 1996 as a junior — skipping his freshman and sophomore years due to AP classes and community college credits he racked up while still in high school. On track as a pre-med student, he took a work-study job in the instructional learning computer lab at UCLA’s Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library.
“It’s kind of funny how things happen,” Lee said, recalling his discovery that, in his new job, the prospect of a medical career suddenly had lost its appeal. “I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
The epiphany led him to the bold act of dropping all of his pre-med classes and instead taking an eclectic array of classes in computers, psychology and business. In 1999, he earned in a B.A. degree in psychology, with a concentration in developmental disabilities and a specialization in business administration. Choosing between a job offer in finance and one in the biomedical library as computer lab manager, Lee took the library job “because it was fun,” he recalled.
The bonus was that he could also stay on campus with Alison, who was about to start dental school at UCLA. After a year on staff at the library, Lee moved to social sciences computing, where one of his inaugural assignments was to create the first-ever computer help desk for the entire division. Eight years later, he teamed up with IT colleagues campuswide to develop the UCLA-wide Help Desk Consortium which has since blossomed, with Lee’s help, into the UCLA BruinTech community of campus tech experts. Among his current projects is working with leaders across social sciences to update websites to enlist the latest in web design and technology.
Along the way, Lee found time to enroll in UCLA’s intensive, yearlong Professional Development Program, as well as to serve on Staff Assembly’s board of directors before being elected president. He also served as a staff representative for four years on UCLA Recreation’s John Wooden Center Board of Governors when UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative was introduced.
Today, given Lee’s commitments to Staff Assembly, his demanding job and busy family life, his main connection with UCLA Recreation is through exercise during his workday. Several times a week, you can find him in the North Pool at Kaufman Hall at 6:30 a.m. or in a yoga class at noon. And he runs.
“I run around UCLA almost daily after work, even in the rain,” he said.
This year, Lee and his wife made a mutual New Year’s resolution to run at least one mile a day. As of today, 61 days into 2016, Alison has successfully met the 61-mile target. Not surprisingly, her husband is already up to 190 miles.