David S. Lee *96 *99, a Princeton professor of economics and public affairs since 2007, became provost July 1 when former provost Christopher ­Eisgruber ’83 took office as the University’s president.

Eisgruber described Lee, 41, as an outstanding scholar whose experiences as a graduate student and faculty member have given him “a deep appreciation for the defining values of this ­University.” 

The provost serves as the University’s chief academic and budgetary officer, as well as the president’s closest partner in the administration. As a labor economist, Lee’s research into human capital goes to the core of the provost’s responsibilities, Eisgruber said. He added that Lee’s studies of income inequality “just could not be more relevant,” given the University’s commitment to equality of access without regard to socioeconomic status.

Since 2009, Lee has been director of the Industrial Relations Section, an academic unit that promotes research and training in labor economics. With offices in Firestone Library, many of the unit’s faculty members have served in top federal economic posts as well as senior positions in Nassau Hall.

Lee’s work as head of the search committee that recommended Cecilia Rouse as Woodrow Wilson School dean “caught my eye,” Eisgruber said.

Lee is the highest-ranking Asian-American administrator in Princeton’s history, but he said that for many years, that part of his identity has not been particularly pertinent to his work. Growing up in Vancouver, “we just didn’t talk about race and ­ethnicity that much in high school,” he said. “It was in college [at Harvard] when I found myself self-identifying as an Asian-­American. But in grad school, the focus was on what I was studying, and identification as an Asian-American was not so relevant.” 

Lee played intramural hockey as a grad student and helped to reactivate an economics department hockey team last year. His wife, Christina Lee *97 *99, is an associate research scholar in the University’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures.