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John Lee was recognized for his leadership in business, the community and support of Barton College as the 2011 recipient of the Business Leadership Award.
Lee, the owner of Lee Automotive Management, received the seventh annual award from the Wilson-Barton Partnership on the campus of Barton College Thursday.
“John has worked tirelessly for the betterment of our community and continues to lead by example,” said Bruce Beasley, president of the Wilson Chamber of Commerce. “I know you can all agree this man represents the best of Wilson, a man who you can truly say has made Wilson a better place to live and work.”
The Business Leadership Award is given each year to someone who has made significant contributions to business, exhibits strong leadership qualities and is community-minded. The Wilson-Business Partnership’s annual dinner also supports Barton College business students with scholarships through sponsorships and proceeds from a portion of ticket sales.
Lee has been a supporter of Barton College, its athletic programs and serves on the Barton College Board of Trustees.
His career with the Lee Motor Company started at age 20 when he worked as a salesman and became a minority owner in the business, in 1980. After graduating from Barton College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he acquired sole ownership of the business, in 1984.
The Lee Motor Company has been in continuous operation as a Ford and Lincoln dealership since 1953 and has expanded by adding Nissan, Hyundai and Kia to its dealerships. The company, with its base in Wilson, has dealerships in three states and annual sales of $200 million.
Lee’s nephew, James Powell, a friend of 30 years, David Ruth, and the company’s vice president, Timothy Varnell, shared stories about Lee and how he set an example in business and every day life.
“I’ve known John for 26 years,” Varnell said. “John always takes time to make everyone he comes in contact with feel special. He has given me and many others who are here tonight a chance to grow and excel in their businesses. What I admire most about John is his ability to make something happen. I’ve seen it time and time again.”
Lee’s involvement in the business community is far-reaching. He is a past member of BB&T’s Wilson Advisory Board, the Greenfield School Board of Trustees and the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club Council. He is past-president of the Wilson County Heart Association and has been involved in the United Way of Wilson campaign and as honorary co-chair of the Eastern Campaign for the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.
“Words cannot express my appreciation,” Lee said. “It has been my privilege and honor to serve this community and this great place. I’ve had so much help along the way to this moment in my life.
“Your generosity tonight is helping to open doors for our students here to learn and become what they are capable of becoming.”
Barton College business students, Lindsey Harper and Zebulon Whitehurst, also spoke after being named the 2011 recipients of scholarships honoring Lee.
[email protected] – 265-7818 – Times Staff Writer
BUSINESS will continue to go where invited and remain where appreciated.
REPUTATIONS will continue to be made by many acts and be lost by one.
PEOPLE will go right on preferring to do business with friends.
GO-GIVERS will become the best go-getters.
THE “EXTRA MILE” will have no traffic jams.
PERFORMANCE will continue to outsell promises.
ENTHUSIASM will be as contagious as ever.
KNOW-HOW will surpass guess-how.
TRUST, not tricks, will keep customers loyal.
QUALITY will be prized as a precious possession.