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Madison resident Marietta Lee was recently honored with the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award from The Country School.

Madison resident Marietta Lee was recently honored with the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award from The Country School. (Photo by Melissa Babcock/The Source | Buy This Photo )

Marietta Lee: A Legacy of Involvement

Published April 09, 2014

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Around Madison, there's not much untouched by Marietta Lee's influence. In recognition of that, The Country School recently awarded her its 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award.
Marietta serves as a vice president and corporate secretary of The Lee Company, which was founded by her grandfather more than 60 years ago. Its headquarters are in Westbrook, where it has two campuses, and there's also a plant in Essex.
She says, "Every plane in the sky has at least 100 Lee parts on it. If one part fails, the results could be catastrophic. There is no room for error."
As a VP, Marietta runs one of the company's product groups.
"We're divided into several product groups," she explains. "Each group runs like its own independent business with its own management team, its own production, its own building-all that. Being the corporate secretary involves making sure all filings are correct with the government and keeping track of the meeting minutes for the Board of Directors, making sure we're following the bylaws and the articles of incorporation."
An inkling of the origin of Marietta's grit and determination reveals itself when she describes how her grandfather founded the company.
"He started the company after World War II. He had worked as an engineer at Chandler Evans, a manufacturing company. He went out on his own and started The Lee Company. It's your classic success story, planned at the dining room table with the kids running around, and he made a go of it on his own. He was incredibly talented and smart and was able to develop products that people needed and that the aerospace industry needed, and it took off from there. And 65 years later, we're still in business, so there's something to be said for that."
Public service and giving back to the community are important to Marietta.
"I think that value comes from my family," she says. "I know my grandparents certainly engaged in it, and my dad was on the Board of Finance when I was growing up, he served the town."
Marietta's mother, Diana Scully Lee, who died when Marietta was a student at The Country School, was one of the chairs of the Scranton Library ball "way back when," Marietta says.
"She was very active with the library. I was one of the forces that brought the ball back, and last year my family sponsored the ball in my mom's name. It was a nice tribute."
Marietta is also in her second year as a police commissioner for Madison, which she says is one of her most interesting tasks.
She says, "I came in after Jack Drumm had been there about a year, which was great because he had definitely straightened things up. I like being on the commission and being involved in the town in that capacity."
Working with the Madison Police Commission is just one of Marietta's current and former roles around town. She also has served on the Board of Directors for the Scranton Library, the Valley-Shore YMCA, and the Shoreline Foundation. She helped start the non-profit Madison Fireworks Organization to raise funds for Madison's annual Fourth of July fireworks show.
Marietta lives in town with her husband, Jeff Keeler, who works in the energy industry, and their two children, Cashen, 15, who likes baseball and attends a boarding school in Watertown, and Maggie, 13, who likes performing and recently played Aunt Eller in The Country School's production of Oklahoma! Like his mother, Cashen is a Country School graduate. Maggie will be as well, once she finishes 8th grade this
Launching Her Career
Marietta attended high school at Choate Rosemary Hall and earned her bachelor's of arts at Georgetown. She went on to earn a juris doctorate from Catholic University's School of Law in Washington, D.C. Then she dove into an exciting career working in television journalism.
"I had a vision of being a television reporter one day, and the cable news network Court TV was wildly popular at the time, televising live trials with legal experts standing by to interpret the proceedings for the viewers at home. I saw a niche and thought with a law degree I could get myself a job in television."
During law school, Marietta took an internship at the local ABC affiliate in Baltimore. She spent every free moment there, she says, and once even went on a drug raid with the Baltimore Police Department. Later in law school, she took a job doing research for the Supreme Court correspondent for CBS News.
"I wrote synopses of all the cases coming before the Supreme Court, attended the proceedings, and helped put together stories for the CBS Evening News. It was a law student's dream."
Subsequent dream jobs came at her one after the other. She found herself working at the ABC National News Desk in Washington, D.C., then being offered a job at the ABC affiliate in Houston, Texas working in its undercover unit, investigating public corruption and fraud.
"I loved it. It was great. It was so interesting. Every day was something new and different. I was in D.C. during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment trial. It was a crazy time, but that being said, it's also a difficult life."
Then, right after the O.J. Simpson trial, which had been covered live on Court TV, Marietta was offered a job back in D.C.-working for Court TV .
"They wanted me to produce two shows for them-one on Washington, D.C., politics and legal issues and the other on the U.S. Supreme Court. It was right up my alley. I loved it. When I wasn't busy meeting all the D.C. newsmakers, I was traveling around the country with a camera crew putting together stories on cases coming before the Supreme Court. After a while, Court TV put me on camera. I produced and reported my own stories and reported regularly live from the Supreme Court about important cases."
She wasn't finished yet.
"From there I went to CBS to help them start their new morning show, The Early Show with Bryant Gumbel. It competed with The Today Show and Good Morning America. I was in charge of anything related to the Justice Department, the FBI, and Supreme Court."
Continuing a Legacy
After their kids were born, Marietta and Jeff decided to move back to Madison. Her father offered her a job as the facilities manager at the family company. She accepted, but wanted to prove to others, and herself, that she deserved to be there and didn't get the job just because her last name was Lee, she says. She went to night school at the University of New Haven and got her master's in engineering management, which she describes as a "hybrid engineering and MBA program." Now she's a VP and corporate secretary.
As part of being honored with The Country School's distinguished alumni award, Marietta gave a speech at the school's most recent alumni induction ceremony.
"I worked really hard on my speech because I felt like it was an opportunity to speak to these children that you wouldn't normally get."
The speech for the graduating 8th graders is an engaging, inspiring, goosebumps-inducing read for an audience of any age. In it, Marietta describes the notable accomplishments and exciting opportunities she's had throughout her life-and the inability to accept her success (called impostor syndrome) she battled until recently.
She says in her speech, "If I had been given this distinguished alumni award just a few years ago, I don't think I would have been able to really appreciate it. I would have convinced myself that I was given this award because-yes, I had had a successful career, but as you know by now, I was certain that the only reason I had had a successful career was because people felt sorry for me because my mother died, and because I was lucky, and because my last name was Lee.
"But, today, I can stand here before you able to really enjoy this moment and be proud to receive this honor. I know that I have worked very hard and that I actually am pretty smart and that is why I have been successful. Sure, there may have been a little luck along the way, but you can only benefit from good fortune or luck if you have put yourself in the position to benefit from it by working hard.
"Set goals and work your butt off and don't give up. And when you do succeed-which you will-give yourself permission to feel good about it. If you get a good grade, get an award, win a contest, or get admitted into a good school, it is not because someone felt sorry for you or because you were lucky. It is because you worked hard and you deserve it."
To nominate someone for Person of the Week, email Melissa at

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