It was a friendly bet over a Trojan football game that landed Jaime Lee ’06, JD ’09 at USC.
When she was a high school junior, she received a postcard from the university recommending that she apply for the Resident Honors Program. Her father prodded, “Why not skip your senior year of high school and enter USC early?”
Lee wouldn’t hear of it. The Encino, California-born teen had her sights set on the East Coast. But her father laid out a proposal: They’d attend a USC football game, and if the Trojans won, she would apply.
The fateful game was against UCLA, with USC’s newly minted head coach Pete Carroll. The final scoreboard read 27-0 to USC, so Lee submitted her application for the honors program—and entered USC with a Presidential Scholarship in 2002. Still, a Stanford transfer application was filled out and ready for submission. Then Lee attended the next home football game. “It was a beautiful, hot L.A. day, I was with amazing new friends and we had another shut-out victory,” she recalls. “It was then I knew—USC was the greatest place on Earth. There was no way I was leaving.”
Of her seven years as a USC student, Lee says, “It was an incredible time to be a student, turning me into a fanatical Trojan.” So much so that at 17 years old, Lee made a declaration to her parents: “I told them my life goal was to one day be a USC trustee.”
Lee is a third-generation Trojan, following in the footsteps of her mother, Miki Nam ’79, and grandfather, Andrew Chung Woo Nam DDS ’72. Continuing her example of earning double USC degrees are her siblings: Phillip ’08, JD ’12; Brian ’09, MBA ’14; and Garrett ’11, JD ’14. Today, Lee serves as the 94th president of the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors. “At 32, I’m proud that I’m the youngest president in the board’s history, 11th woman, first Asian female, first Korean,” she says.
Lee recently completed a two-year term as president of the USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association and has served on the governing board for three other USC alumni groups. She juggles volunteering with her career as chief executive officer of Jamison Realty, the leasing and brokerage arm of the Jamison group of companies. Added to the mix is a home life with husband Matt Cheesebro MSE ’09, daughter Nora and a son born this summer.
Lee’s plans for her presidential tenure are already underway: “We’re striving for diversity and inclusion in all things.” This year’s USC Global Conference takes place in Tokyo and brings an opportunity to reach out to the university’s Asia-based constituency. Additionally, a new regional program is being launched to develop alumni leaders in key geographic areas across the United States. Young alumni, who make up one-third of USC’s alumni population, also will be an area of focus.
“We need to do strong outreach to figure out what services they need and how USC can engage with them to provide meaningful experiences,” Lee says. Good thing she knows firsthand that USC is the place that can make it happen.