In American history there are many examples of talented athletes who later became successful teachers and coaches. One such example is Roderick (Roddy) Lee, a retired high school business teacher and coach who represented the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the 1972 Munich Olympic games.
Roddy was born in the United States, but his family originally came from Taiwan. He grew up in Kensington, Contra Costa County, California, where he attended Kensington Hilltop Elementary, Portola Junior High, and nearby El Cerrito High School. This gifted athlete began running track while a student at El Cerrito. As a high school athlete, “I liked the hurdles best,” he once said. “It was a little more exciting and the races were a little faster.”
Following his high school graduation in 1967, Roddy enrolled in UC Berkeley, where he was a business major and member of the track team. In 1970, he was approached by a Taiwanese official who invited him to compete for Taiwan at the Asian Games in Bangkok. At the time, Roddy, whose Chinese name is Lee Chung-Ping, had dual citizenship with the United States and the Republic of China. Roddy agreed to represent Taiwan. “I hit a hurdle in the highs — I was the favorite there going in,” he said. “In the intermediates, I lost on a lean. But that’s how it goes. I can say that now.” Despite this setback, by the time the games were over, Roddy had won two silver medals.
Roddy also represented Taiwan in the 1972 Olympics, finishing 35th overall in the 110 hurdles. “There were only four guys on the track team,” Roddy said. “A long jumper, a triple jumper, a sprinter, and me. And that was our relay team.” The 1972 Olympics are best remembered for the Palestinian terrorist attack that left eleven Israeli athletes and coaches dead. The games were halted for one day for a memorial service. The rest of the Taiwanese team returned home on its scheduled flight. The one-day delay meant that Roddy was the last Taiwanese athlete left in Munich to carry the national flag for the closing ceremonies.
During his senior year of college, Roddy decided to become a track coach. He earned his degree and teaching credential, then coached track at Kennedy High School for ten years. Then Roddy transferred to his alma mater, El Cerrito High School, where he coached track and golf, taught computer science and physical education, and led his school’s IT team until his retirement.
In his retirement, Roddy is still very much a part of his school. He is actively working on the El Cerrito High School Archiving Project, an effort to preserve the school’s history. The effort is fitting and proper, because he is part of that history. Lee holds a spot in the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.