ASDA remembers Past President Jiwon Lee

Last week, the American Student Dental Association learned of the passing of Immediate Past President Jiwon Lee. A beloved daughter, sister, friend and esteemed colleague, Lee was 29 years old. She was a fourth year dental student at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.

Jiwon served ASDA as president for the 2013-14 year and as speaker of the House the previous year. She was a vibrant and inspiring leader who will be remembered fondly by many. Her memorial service is today at Columbia University. For details, click here.

ASDA wanted to remember Jiwon and her leadership within our organization. Some of the people she worked most closely with in ASDA have put down a few memories below. If you’d like to leave a memory of Jiwon, please share in the comments section of this post. You can also share your memories with her family by sending an e-mail to [email protected].

polaroid-tylerTyler Rumple, Washington ’14, 2013-14 vice president:

If Jiwon would have wanted anything written about her, she would have wanted it in haiku form. So here it is:

Unsurpassed leader
Your love made us all better
Rest peacefully friend


polaroid-Jiwons-ECMartin Smallidge, Pittsburgh ’14, 2013-14 vice president:

Over the past four years I have had the honor to grow with Jiwon. My first memories are of her campaign for speaker of the House. She is charismatic on stage and powerful at a microphone. She knows just when to throw a joke. I knew she would make an excellent president for ASDA. I couldn’t have been more right.

However, it was the Jiwon outside of ASDA that I wish I knew more. Many dental students do not know that she was a comedian. Her style was no sugar, just the spicy reality of life. Her sense of humor was never lost on those closest to her.

If I could have one more day, I would accept her invitation to see her stand-up act and celebrate her birthday. Sadly, that invitation will go unfilled. Instead, I fold her lessons into my leadership experiences and I carry her in my heart.

Knowledge, teacher, speaker, leader.
These are the ways I will remember my colleague.
Food, photos, comedy, and puppies.
These are the things I will remember about my friend, Jiwon Lee.

Dr. Alex Barton, Virginia ’13, 2012-13 vice president:

I still remember the moment I met Jiwon. I’d just given a presentation at the 2011 Eastern Regional Meeting in Buffalo and she came up to me immediately afterwards to tell me how much she’d enjoyed it. For the next three years, I watched Jiwon go out of her way to tell others they’d done a great job and make them feel as appreciated and special as she did for me that day. Not only was this the type of leader Jiwon was, but it was the type of friend she was too. She was one of those (rare) selfless and authentic friends that really wanted to know how you were and what was going on in your life. Even when Jiwon was running for EC last year (arguably one of the most stressful times in any of our ASDA careers) she was so thoughtful that she took the time to make Ben, Colleen and I these silly little coffee mugs that she drew all over as a thank you for being mentors to her. She was a goofball that made us all laugh with her terrible impersonation of a British accent and I’ll cherish the short four years that I was privileged enough to call her my colleague and friend. I’ll carry a piece of Jiwon with me always and can only hope to honor her memory and legacy by striving to be even a fraction of the same caring, thoughtful and lighthearted friend and leader that she was.

Dr. Ben Youel, Illinois ’13, 2012-13 vice president:

I could always count on Jiwon to have the best stories. Whether it was a tale about life in New York City, an anecdote from dental school, or a saga about an ex-roommate that was eventually sent to Rikers Island, I knew the story was going to be good. Jiwon had a keen insight into real life situations. She had a sharp wit and was fiercely intelligent. These qualities are some of the qualities that made her a strong leader, a good friend and an amazing storyteller. The world is a little less bright without her.

polaroid-KrisKristopher Mendoza, Los Angeles ’15, president:
In the midst of this heartache, I realize how lucky I am to have known Jiwon. If it weren’t for Jiwon, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. She was, and continues to be my inspiration for leading this association and living life to the fullest. In our last weekend together Jiwon told me something I will never forget. She said, “Kris, when I called your name as the next ASDA President, it was like hearing my name all over again.” As I continue to wear the presidential pin, it will be in honor of her. It was and will forever be her pin that she wore so proudly. I will always keep it close to my heart, just as I carry her close to my heart. I hope that throughout my life I am able to spread her love, her joy and her passion to those around me.

Daryn Lu, Oklahoma ’15, vice president:
I will remember Jiwon as a determined and passionate leader who always kept the best interest of our 20,000 student members in mind. You could tell that she loved dentistry and the people she met along the way. I had the privilege to work alongside her on  ASDA’s Board of Trustees for the past year. Jiwon always had the best things to say about others. She constantly recognized people and celebrated their achievements. She possessed such a memorable presence and spark. Her directness, quick thinking and blunt humor will always stand out to me. Her legacy left a powerful impact on our association and the dental profession. Our dental family mourns the loss of one of our own. She will be dearly missed.

ASDA staff will remember Jiwon fondly for her professionalism and fun loving spirit. She put the good of the association first and worked with the staff to accomplish what needed to be done. ASDA appreciates the support and heartfelt sympathy we’ve received over the past week.

If you would like to share a memory of Jiwon, please do so in the comments section on this post.

~Kim Schneider, publications manager

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  1. Christian Ortiz says:

    Being a friend of Jiwon is something I will cherish forever. There are so many happy memories that stand out when I think of her. When I first saw her at an ASDA meeting, I instantly noticed how professional and driven she was. It was radiating. Later that meeting, all the students were hanging out at this one place, and without ever having met me, she brought me into her circle of friends and introduced me because she saw that I was by myself at the time. We’ve been great friends ever since. Everybody that has seen her in action as an ASDA leader knows how truly inspirational she is. But what stood out about her is that she always wanted to know how I was doing and get to know me as much as she could. Getting a compliment from her is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Serving on the board under her leadership was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It’s countless moments like these that make Jiwon so special.

    – Christian Ortiz

  2. It was my privilege to consult for ASDA during Jiwon’s term as its President. She was an impressive leader with a sense of purpose and of humor. I enjoyed my brief encounter with her and wish her family peace and consolation.

    Linda Ridge
    OnPoint Solutions, Inc.

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