Cynthia Lee '08 (Alumna)

By University Communications

Monday, 01 07 2019

Cynthia Lee ’08, office manager in A&M-SA’s College of Business, led a Jaguar journey that became a family affair.

Coming from a family whose roots were from Opelousas, Louisiana, Lee grew up in San Antonio. She was the oldest of four siblings. A younger sister died of cancer. Lee has four children of her own—three daughters and a son. She also has nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

A beneficiary of her own words that she once used to motivate her daughter, Lee found herself a student in A&M-SA’s College of Arts and Sciences pursuing a bachelor’s degree in human relations at the age of 47. Her pursuit of higher education actually began before A&M-SA at the Alamo Colleges. “I had never set foot on a college campus to take classes,” Lee said. “So I was talking to my daughter one day and I said ‘I’m too old to go to college.’ And she says, ‘Mom, you’re never too old to learn.’” Knowing that she had pushed her children to pursue higher education, Lee was not in a good position to dispute her daughter. She acknowledged to herself that she needed to go to college, too.

Lee had been employed for 19 years with the San Antonio Light, a newspaper that closed in 1993. She had brief stints working in a pharmacy and for the Sheriff’s Department. She worked another seven years in private industry, which ended with surgery on her hand. At the time she decided to earn her college degree, she was working as a substitute teacher, and the closest campus for her to attend was Northeast Lakeview College.

“When I called the school, a young lady answered the phone and her name was Patrice Butler,” Lee said, recalling that she was somewhat afraid. Although the woman was quite young, she implored Lee to visit her at the school. “I went in and I still credit her to this day. Had it not been for her treating me the way she did when I went in, I never would have gone to school. She made me feel so comfortable and was really, really nice.” 

By the time Lee found herself in the halls of A&M-SA, she had about 133 college hours. She became the first African American employee of Texas A&M University Kingsville System Center-San Antonio when she was hired in April 2007 while it was still operating on the Palo Alto College campus. She was an administrative assistant for both the College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences simultaneously. Lee said a fellow employee, Carolyn Green, and Dr. Tracy Hurley, dean of the College of Business, noticed all of the college hours she had and encouraged Lee to complete a degree. She committed herself to completing that degree by attending school on her lunch breaks and after work.

Lee’s educational perseverance carried over to her husband, Andre Lee, Sr., who earned a degree in business, and daughter Stephanie Burton, who earned a master’s degree guidance and counseling. They both graduated from A&M-SA on the same day in Spring 2013.

Nowadays, Lee works as the office manager in the College of Business, handling most of everything that concerns faculty, staff and students. When the College encounters a student problem that appears to be intensifying, Lee tries to defuse the situation before it escalates. Her training in human relations, which she describes as a combination of psychology, criminology and sociology, has helped her be effective in such instances. 

Lee said she would advise today’s students to “never give up.” Without an education, she explained, young people are at a roadblock.