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Lee Hess ’66

In 1966, Brother Hess pledged Kappa Sigma with encouragement from his father, who was also a Kappa Sigma at the University of Illinois in 1934 and was anxious to see him join the brotherhood at the Beta-Nu chapter. His Big Brother was Ron Kissling, who was the Grand Master at the time and they have remained close friends over the last 50 plus years. “Old friends are dear friends!”
Lee and his wife, Catherine, moved to Atlanta where he began a banking career at Citizens and Southern National Bank, primarily in the International Banking field which included many trips overseas to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South America. They also opened an office in New York City, which Lee managed for a few years.

After 13 years in Atlanta and New York, Lee and Catherine both felt the “call” to come home and moved back to Lexington. He was part of an acquisition team that bought the Citizens Union Bank, and after several years, sold it to Bank One. Lee worked there as Executive Vice President in Commercial Lending. After three years he partnered with venture capitalists and raised the funds necessary to start a new bank in Lexington, naming it The Vine Street Trust Company. His role was President and Chief Executive Officer, and over the next 14 years they grew the bank into a very successful, and profitable enterprise that focused on high quality client service and developing a niche in the Private Banking segment. In 2002, they sold the bank to BB&T Corporation, and Lee stayed on as Regional President for BB&T in Central Kentucky until his retirement in 2013. While the BB&T experience was wonderful, Lee says the most rewarding part of his career was founding and nurturing a new bank.

Lee has served on many boards and have done his share of philanthropy, but his most interesting role was being involved as the Chairman of the KCTCS Foundation, which provides support and direction for the KCTCS System that has an enrollment of over 100,000 students. He continues to be active on the Board to this day. Given the ever-rising costs of college tuition, he is proud to be associated with an institution that provides affordable education and can be a stepping-stone to a four-year program.

Lee and Catherine have two children, Amy and Frank, who have given them four wonderful grandchildren. His days at the Beta-Nu lodge were very meaningful, although moving away for 13 years made it more difficult to maintain relationships with his brothers. Being involved with the Building project has reconnected Lee with Kappa Sig, and he is very impressed with the progress of the Chapter despite not having a house for many years. He looks forward to continuing this special relationship.