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Dear Lee, It’s Been a Wild Ride!


Lee Schipper (left) and Ethan Arpi (right) enjoy a bike ride through the city.

The first time I went biking with Lee, we were both returning home from work at EMBARQ.  Lee insisted that we take Massachusetts Avenue, one of Washington, D.C.’s most congested streets but also the most direct route home. I thought it was a crazy idea but I went along for the ride. I have to admit, Lee had this way of getting me to do things I wouldn’t otherwise do. As I struggled to keep up with Lee, who was weaving through rush hour traffic and yelling back at me, “You should have seen me biking in Paris,” I decided then and there that I’d stick to safer streets.

Lee, by contrast, never took the safe streets, whether he was biking home from work or fighting for sustainability—the cause he believed so much in.  You could count on Lee to tell politicians things they didn’t want to hear and he was quick to challenge the “have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too” environmentalist who promised quick and easy solutions.  Let’s just say, “political” was never a good way to describe Lee.  Yet, through the force of his personality and the power of his intellect—I think all of us were in awe of his intellect—he made a bigger impact on the world around him than any of his more political peers.

Lee, along with his good friend, Nancy Kete, founded EMBARQ, an organization that is still marked by his DNA. Everywhere an EMBARQ employee travels, whether it’s to Mexico, India or Brazil, people respond the same way when they get an EMBARQ business card.  “Ah,” they say, smiling,  “you work with Dr. Schipper!”  It can’t be changed; the EMBARQ brand is very much the Lee Schipper brand.  And it’s a brand that all of us are proud to associate ourselves with.

Perhaps what made Lee so special was that he was much more than just a scientist. He loved music and was a phenomenal musician. In fact, he was more like a prodigy.  In the 1960s he toured Africa with his jazz band as part of a State Department program to promote cross-cultural understanding.  Later in life, he would perform on many different continents.  If you ever went to a conference with Lee, chances were you could find him at the after-party rocking out with a hodgepodge of musicians.

Lee: it has been a wild ride and we’re glad you touched our lives! From everyone at EMBARQ, a heartfelt goodbye.  We will miss you!

If you have any memories or tributes to share, please leave them in the comments.

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