Doris Lee: Co-founder of small casino was a big name in philanthropyBy John L. Smith, CDC Gaming ReportsAugust 29, 2018 at 8:00 pmDoris Lee won’t be remembered as one of the gaming industry’s corporate casino titans. And I’m guessing that would be fine with her.Back in 1997, Lee and her husband Ted Lee co-founded the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite, Nevada. Now known for its employee ownership, the Eureka is a lively operation brimming with vitality and value – but it’s not a place likely to be confused with one of the Las Vegas Strip’s gaming giants.That’s no criticism. The Eureka has carved out a comfortable fit in a market that depends on visitors from nearby Utah and Arizona, travelers on Interstate 15, and golf and spa enthusiasts from throughout Clark County. It’s a success story in its own right.The Lee family (Doris Lee, center) at a UNLV event (Photo courtesy UNLV)Lee, who died Sunday at age 98, will be well-remembered just the same.In a statement, Lee’s son, Eureka President Greg Lee, said, “It is with heavy heart that I share the news of the passing of my mother, Doris, last night. Mom passed quickly and peacefully, but the hole she leaves in our hearts and in our family is not easily filled.”If Doris Lee’s life were appraised only by her own wonderful American success story, there would be much to celebrate. Her father, Joe Shoong, was a Chinese immigrant who came to America as a penniless teen-ager and overcame a language barrier and the prejudices of the day to build the National Dollar Stores discount markets into a household name throughout the nation.Born Doris Shoong in 1919 in San Francisco, Lee balanced the pursuit of higher education with a family as well as jumping into the family business. Her family legacy includes a long relationship with UC Berkeley and Harvard.After moving to Las Vegas from the Bay Area, the Lee family became big supporters of academics at UNLV. For his part, Greg Lee has helped carry on the tradition. He has served as a UNLV Foundation Board member and is a member of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.The Lee family’s many contributions to UNLV are highlighted by a $15 million donation to help create the aptly named Lee School of Business. It remains one of UNLV’s largest schools with approximately 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students.The Lee’s winning real estate strategy could be taught at the university. The Eureka, for instance, began more than three decades ago with the purchase of 40 acres of desert as a long-term investment in the community. Like other successful business owners and community leaders, being in the game for the long haul defines the Lee family’s life in Southern Nevada.The Lee family made an important contribution to Mesquite by keeping the Eureka open at a time of high unemployment during the recession.When the company opened its Rising Star Sports Ranch non-gaming hotel facility that caters to families and visiting sports teams last year, Mesquite Mayor Al Litman offered insight that said much about Doris, Ted, and the family.“In the 12-plus years I’ve lived in Mesquite,” Litman said in a Mesquite Local News report, “I don’t believe we’ve ever recognized a person or family for what they’ve contributed to our city in the fashion we are today. It’s not only time to recognize a very special family for what they have done for Mesquite but what they have done for the state of Nevada. Ted and Doris Lee are very modest and quiet people. They’ve never searched out the limelight of fame, they didn’t need to their deeds speak for themselves.”Doris Lee’s long life and generous giving make her a giant whose legacy is well worth celebrating.Contact John L. Smith at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.