Elisabeth Amy (Beth) Lee

(5 October 1930 – 14 January 2024)

Beth Lee, who has died in New South Wales at the age of 93, is warmly remembered at St Mark’s, including with deep gratitude for her volunteer work for nearly 20 years in the College Library – an enormous contribution to St Mark’s.

Elisabeth Amy Humphris grew up at Mungeree, a sheep property north of Wirrabara, in the Southern Flinders Ranges in the Mid North of South Australia. After boarding at Walford Anglican School for Girls in Adelaide from the age of 10, she became a resident student at St Ann’s College in 1948, the second year of its existence. Beth made lifelong friends at St Ann’s.

Studying English and History at the University of Adelaide, she was awarded the Tennyson Medal for Excellence in English, before commencing teaching in country schools, including Minlaton High School.

While a resident student of St Ann’s, Beth was courted by a St Mark’s medical student from Singapore, Chin Tiong Lee (1930-2009, St Mark’s 1950-52), whom she later married.

Beth and Dr Chin Lee had four daughters – Jane (St Ann’s 1971-73), Chris, Marion, and Susannah – and a son, Jonathan. Jonathan was a resident student at St Mark’s when he was killed by a white pointer shark in waters off Aldinga Beach on 8 September 1991. Jon was 19, and was then in his second year at College, where he was very happy, and at the University of Adelaide.

Beth and Chin Lee greatly appreciated the time they were able to spend with Jonathan’s St Mark’s friends after his death, including when several went to the family’s farm at One Tree Hill to burn the big pile of wood Jon had prepared in the bottom paddock for his annual Paddock Party bonfire.

Following Jonathan’s death, Beth Lee volunteered thousands of hours in the College Library from 1993 until 2012, typically working on Wednesday afternoons each week, especially helping the Librarian, Pirjo Rayner. In this time, she accessioned thousands of periodicals, processed many more thousands of books, helped with the stocktakes, and willingly performed any tasks asked of her, including plastic covering and reshelving books.

In October 1994, Beth wrote: “I commenced volunteer work in the College Library early in 1993 for 4 hours a week. I volunteered because I wanted to maintain a connection with the College in memory of Jon, and because I like books.”

On Beth’s “retirement” from her volunteer work in the Library due to declining health, Pirjo Rayner recorded that “because of her great love of books the Library was a natural fit for her”.

“She worked here for 19 years and has given roughly 3,500 hours to the College in that time. She has done a wonderful job assisting me. Beth and her daughter Jane have also donated hundreds of books to the Library over the years, of which 190 are currently part of our collection.”

Pirjo has recently recalled: “During her time as a volunteer in the St Mark’s College Library, Beth and I became friends and I really enjoyed her company. She was a feisty and down-to-earth woman in her quiet way, and we got on very well.”

In acknowledgement of Beth Lee’s longstanding service and generosity to the College, two commemorative brick pavers were produced and laid near the Pond around the time of her “retirement”: one in the name of her late son, Jonathan Lee, and the other in the names Beth and Chin Lee.

Jonathan Lee is also remembered at the College with a photograph which hangs in the College Library, and a tree near the College Green planted in his memory. His name is also recorded on the honour board in the Junior Common Room for the Collegians’ Prize, which he was awarded posthumously for 1991.

Our deepest sympathy goes to the Lee family on Beth’s passing. We remain deeply grateful for her exceptional contribution to the College.

There is a tribute to Beth Lee on the St Ann’s College website here.

Main photograph: Beth Lee in her retirement.

Photographs below: Chin and Beth Lee with Ian Wall at the 1950 St Mark’s Collegians’ reunion in 2000; Beth and Chin Lee in 1953.

Our thanks to Jane Lee and the College Archives for these photographs.