A serial entrepreneur who can't stop learning.
It started the day he discovered a dusty set of encyclopedias in the basement of his childhood home. Everyday, the young Lee Walker would sneak down to the basement and polish off another volume. Little Lee was a Catholic altar boy, and he was convinced that God had providentially placed those Encyclopedia Americana in his basement for him to discover.
It was the love of learning that led Walker to major in nuclear physics and minor in Russian. They were the hardest subjects he could think of. After graduating Harvard Business School, Lee landed at Union Carbide. After his first year, Lee Walker was on the fast track. His boss and mentor took Lee to lunch. "Kid, you're going places, you're going to make it to the top." Lee grinned back at the compliment and the two men ordered a round of drinks. A few drinks later, his boss confided in Lee. "You know, I'll never make it to the top." Lee punched his boss in the arm and reassured him. "You're going be running this place, are you kidding?" His boss smiled darkly and explained, "Lee, I'm Jewish. Jews can only rise so high at Union Carbide. "
Lee Walker's first love was learning, but his passion was justice. Lee quit that job on the spot. "I cannot work for this company... it is an unjust place." His resignation sent shock waves through the company. They begged but Walker would not budge from his decision.
A few days later, he received a call from one of the highups at Union Carbide. "We have a job for you and the best part is you don't have to actually work for us to do it."
The job was CFO of a little company called Ocean Systems. Union Carbide owned a small percentage in the company and they had been combing the country for someone who could apply fiscal discipline and a strong moral compass. Lee Walker was their guy.Lee was basically given rein of the company and within a year they were turning a profit. Union Carbide called again and offered the Lee a shot at heading up a new company they wanted to launch. He called his old boss and asked his advice. "Union Carbide is changing," he told Lee, "In fact, it looks like I'm going to be their first Jewish President."
Lee took the job, but a year later, he was itching for something bigger. "I don't think I even knew the term entrepreneur in those days... I expect I was doing it before I could even articulate it."
And so Lee started his own company and sold it off. Then another. Then another. Lee Walker was more than a successful entrepreneur, this Harvard MBA had become a "serial entrepreneur."
"The entrepreneurial life is fun. It's a highly competitive situation. You are free to create your own destiny. There's lots of money, lot's of positive strokes." But for Lee Walker, it just wasn't enough.
After helping fellow entrepreneur, Michael Dell launch his company, God intervened again in Lee's life. He was stricken with a sudden illness.
"I thought I had died. Then suddenly, I was pitched back and I wasn't at all happy about it." There had to be something more than making money. It was then that Lee decided to do something with his love for learning: He would teach.
"It's like a coin. If one side is learning, the other side is teaching. Right?" Exactly. And Lee figured out something else: The other side of making it, is giving something back. And that is exactly what Lee Walker is doing with his amazing entrepreneurial life.
Lee Walker is a serial entrepreneur, the former president of Dell Computers and a life-long lover of learning. Today, he teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.