Theresa K. Lee
2002 Outstanding Alumni
As a second generation American, Theresa K. Lee knew she helped to bring to reality the hopes and dreams of her grandparents and her parents. Her grandparents immigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States to give their family opportunities for a brighter future. Her parents encouraged Lee and her three siblings to be prepared to take advantage of even more opportunities by attending college, and all four did earn college degrees. It is on that foundation of hard work and respect for education that Lee has risen to her position as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for Eastman Chemical Company, an international chemical company based in Kingsport, Tenn.
She was born in Welch, W.Va., but moved to this area when she was a senior in high school. Lee says when she moved to this region, she fell in love with the beauty of East Tennessee. She graduated summa cum laude from East Tennessee State University with a B.S. degree in political science and history, but she did much more than just study while in school. She worked numerous jobs to earn enough money to stay in school. While attending ETSU, Lee was a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Gamma Mu honor societies. She won the Rogers Award for History, which is given to one outstanding history major a year. Lee was also selected in the Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities.
After graduation, Lee decided to pursue a law degree. She received her doctor of jurisprudence in 1977 from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she was a member of the Law Review and an Order of the Coif graduate. Lee holds licenses to practice law in Tennessee and in Texas. Never content to be at an educational standstill, in 1999, she completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
Lee joined Eastman in 1987 as an attorney in the Legal Department. She was appointed assistant to the president in 1991 and one year later was named assistant secretary and senior counsel, Texas Eastman Division. In 1993, Lee was appointed assistant secretary and assistant general counsel, Legal Department, Health Safety and Environmental Group. Two years later, Lee was named assistant secretary and assistant general counsel, Legal Department Corporate Group. In 1997, she was appointed vice president, secretary and associate general counsel. She assumed her present position in 2000, being named senior vice president in January 2002. She also serves Eastman's board of directors as secretary of the company.
Before joining Eastman, Lee served from 1977 to 1979 as a staff attorney for Legal Services of Upper East Tennessee, Johnson City. For the next eight years, she was a senior law clerk to Judge H. Emory Widener, Jr., United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Abingdon, Va.
She is a member of the board of directors of Genecor International, Inc., the Tennessee Chapter of the American Corporate Counsel Association, and Hands On! Regional Museum. She is a member of the American Corporate Counsel Association, the American Society of Corporate Secretaries, the American Bar Association, the General Counsel Committee of the American Bar Association, and the Kingsport Bar Association.
Lee was a former hearing examiner for the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee and a former member of the University of Tennessee Development Council.
In 1996, Lee was awarded the 1996 Honorarium for Women and Industry from Altrusa International of Kingsport.
She currently lives in Johnson City with her husband Tony and their two children, Patrick and Katherine.