Back in 2002, Kevin Lee felt that he’d explored as much of the world as there was to explore. He’d traveled to Mt. Everest Base Camp, backpacked through India, and even climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. When an acquaintance asked if he had ever scuba dived, he realized there was an entire underwater world he’d left unexplored so far and, taking the acquaintance up on his offer for private lessons, quickly became an avid scuba diver. Within just a year of his diving, though, Kevin was already looking for ways to make his new hobby even more exciting. When he saw other divers popping up out of the water with small cameras, inspiration struck him, and he began his new passion: underwater photography.

With his high quality camera and expertly assembled underwater camera assembly, Kevin continues to travel the world. His favorite undersea creature to photograph is the opisthobranch/nudibranch, known more commonly as a sea slug. Frequent visitors to the Onnolee Elliott Library of Science and Technology on the third floor of the Leatherby Libraries are probably pretty familiar with his opisthobranch photos. The six photos just to the left of the service elevator, which were installed in 2012, have recently been joined by six more on the other side of the elevator. Visitors can enjoy photos of opisthobranchs from as far away as the Philippines, Kenya, Korea, Papua New Guinea, or Chile, or as nearby as Laguna Beach.

When the first six photographs were installed in 2012, the Leatherby Libraries held a reception to honor Kevin, his photography, and the two Certificates of Congressional Recognition that he received, from the offices of US Representatives Loretta Sanchez and Ed Royce. Other awards Kevin has received include the “2012 Photographer of the Year” award from the Los Angeles Underwater Photography Society and the “Adventurer of the Year 2013 Award” from the Adventurers Club of Los Angeles.

The newer half of the exhibit, donated and installed in summer 2019, is in memory and honor of Kevin Lee’s late sister, Sue Kint. Sue immigrated to the US from South Korea as a university student, and though she struggled with both culture shock and the difficulty of learning English, due to what Kevin aptly identifies as her “innate knowledge and tenacious determination,” she overcame her struggles and earned her degree in law and finance, going on to start several successful businesses. A few months before her untimely passing in 2014, Sue received a Doctor of the University degree from Chapman University. In her acceptance speech, she gave Chapman graduates these thoughtful words of encouragement: “…whatever you do, please don’t forget that an important element of happiness is self-respect, so always act with honesty, integrity and compassion toward others.”

Close-up of a woman posing next to a man.

Kevin Lee, right, with his sister, Sue Kint

Sadly, Sue passed away before learning that a nudibranch was named for her brother: Placida kevinleei. We’re certain that this nudibranch would have been her favorite. If you have a chance to stop on by the exhibit, let us know which one you like best.