Rex E. Lee: A man worth running for

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David Scott
Cosmo lines up with runners before the 10K race. Each year the Rex Lee Run is held to raise money for cancer research. (Photo courtesy David Scott)

The 20th annual Rex Lee Run will celebrate a former BYU president’s running passion while raising money for cancer research.

Rex Edwin Lee served as the United States solicitor general under the Ronald Reagan administration. Lee founded the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University in 1972. In 1989, he became the 10th president of BYU after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just a few years before. In spite of his poor health, he maintained a bright and hopeful spirit until his passing in 1996.

In an interview with the BYU Cancer Research Center, Janet Chamberlain, Lee’s widow, described her late husband.

“Rex was one of the most fun-loving people I’ve ever known,” Chamberlain said. “He enjoyed life to its fullest, and he enjoyed everything about life.”

Lee earnestly gave attention to the most important things such as family, church, the university and running.

“I think the running actually helped his optimism, because it gave him the fresh air, and it gave him the camaraderie of being with other people,” Chamberlain said. “It made him feel alive, and so as long as he could, he ran.”

Lee developed his love for running while studying at BYU. His passion continued even while teaching as a law professor. He would challenge his own law students to beat him in a race.

According to Jared Cowley, director of the Rex Lee Race, the race was developed to symbolize three things about Lee:

“His love of BYU, his love of running and his love for cancer research,” Cowley said. “Lee felt very strongly that cancer research allowed for his life to be extended for 10 years. When he was battling cancer, several runs were created to support him. Now the race is held annually, and 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to the BYU Simmons Center for Cancer Research.”

The race has now become more than just a way of remembering Lee. It’s an opportunity for the community to reflect upon those battling cancer. Those who participate wear a certificate bearing the name of those whom they are honoring.

The race has earned more than $400,000 for the BYU Cancer Research Center. It has funded research opportunities for more than 200 students. These students have had their research published in top, scientific journals and have made breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer. Because of the Rex Lee Run, BYU’s contributions to fighting cancer continue, increasing hope for those battling the disease.

Steven Pulsipher, a junior at BYU, will be running in the Rex Lee Race for the first time.

“It’s just a great cause to pay for,” he said. “I’m training for a marathon, but I like the fact that with this race all the money goes to cancer research as opposed to something else.”

The race will be held March 7 at 9 a.m. Runners can register for the race online or at the event.

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