Visionary Leader for Training and Education of Korean Women

Richmond, Va. - For the first time in Union Presbyterian Seminary’s history, an honorary degree will be bestowed. Dr. Yeon Ok Lee, whose accomplishments are too numerous to name, will be the recipient of a Doctor of Humane Letters to be awarded at the seminary’s bicentennial graduation in June.

Dr. Lee attended the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, earning her Master of Arts in 1964. Since that time, she has received numerous honorary degrees and awards but beyond the accolades, she has spent her life serving God and uplifting the role of women in the Korean church.

The Christian population of Korea at present is approximately twelve million, roughly 26 per cent of the total population of the country, and still growing. The extraordinary contributions to church life and growth by the female half of the twelve million can not be understated. Dr. Lee has committed herself to the education of Christian women by creating scholarship opportunities, establishing educational facilities, developing curriculum, leading mission activities, and speaking out on their behalf.

A tireless advocate for the ordination of women in the Presbyterian Church of Korea, Dr. Lee had already spent more than 25 years working toward this goal when the General Assembly approved women’s ordination in 1994.  

Dr. Lee served from 1967-69 as the first president of the Korean Church Women United. Established in 1967, this ecumenical organization is committed to promoting the fellowship and reconciliation of church women and to raising their voices on social issues of the day. She has led the development of the National Organization of Korean Presbyterian Women (NKPW). A visionary leader since its founding, she was instrumental in the construction of the NKPW building for the education and training of Presbyterian women. As a component of the NKPW, she established its Academy for Continuing Education Programs for the lifelong education of Korean Christian women. She also served twice as president of the organization, from 1975-78 and again in 1981-85.

Dr. Lee has undertaken several efforts to aid in the construction of buildings such as the Presbyterian College & Theological Seminary in Korea, a concert hall, several churches, and a home for the elderly in China. Her fundraising efforts enabled many of those desiring to learn about Christ a place to study and worship.

A published author, Dr. Lee has written management manuals for the National Organization of Presbyterian Women. She has also written on women’s issues and on Christian women leaders.  

Over her storied career in service to Christ, Dr. Lee has worn many hats. She has served with her mind, her hands, her heart, and her spirit and she has shown how her calling has been a blessing to the lives she has touched. “Dr. Lee’s legacy will not be in buildings, but in the training and education that will take place there, as women who go to serve will be living testimonies to how Christ has worked through her,” said Union Presbyterian Seminary President Brian K. Blount.

As the seminary celebrates 200 years of equipping Christian leaders for the work of ministry in the world, Dr. Lee’s life of service is an inspiration to those following in her path.