05/11/2011 07:00:00

Biology Stockroom Supervisor Recalls 45 Years of Service at Caltech

For Bill Lease, stockroom supervisor in the Division of Biology, the road to Caltech was a long one. Born in Indonesia, Lease spent four years as a young child in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. His teen years were spent in Holland and at the age of 20, he immigrated to the United States. With $350 in his pocket, Lease traveled from New York to California, seeking out the sunshine and palm trees of his youth. Five years after setting up a new life in Pasadena, he began working at Caltech.

"I met Max Delbrück at a local hospital and he told me about a job, so I took it," says Lease, describing the chance encounter that began his Caltech career in 1965. (A few short years later, Delbrück, a biophysicist in the biology division, won the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in genetics.)

On June 1, Lease—along with three other members of the Caltech community—will be honored for 45 years of service at the Staff Service Awards.

"The biology division is like a big family," he says, of his experience at Caltech. "There is a great support staff and many of them have been here a long time, too."

Lease says he particularly enjoys working with students and offering help where he can. Through the years, he has made significant contributions to the stockroom operations, working closely with new recruits to set up labs and purchasing equipment for faculty. His work motto is to "treat everyone the same and with respect." 

In comments gathered for the award ceremony, colleagues said that Lease's "dedication to the Division and its mission is unsurpassed. Bill truly appreciates the work done at Caltech and embodies the accommodating Caltech culture for facilitating instruction and research." 

The long and successful career aside, Lease says the best part about working at Caltech is that he met his wife, Doreen, here. They met on campus in the mid 80s—she worked for 24 years as a lab manager in the Division of Biology, retiring in 2008—and were married four years ago.

Written by Katie Neith