Why I Supported Ivan Lee as Chair

One of the first decisions made at the Board retreat was voting for our next Chair. Prior to the retreat, I had a few people ask me if I was going to run. The answer was a resounding “no” because I have a newborn and an energetic toddler, and I want to make sure I prioritize family above the burden of being the Chair. So now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk Ivan Lee.

I supported Ivan Lee as Chair because Ivan has rightfully earned the respect and admiration of the Fencing community in every area he touches. As a competitor, he dazzled and was the quintessential sportsman, adored both by his domestic and foreign opponents.

As a coach, his #lockitup no bullshit attitude about life has turned Long Island University (LIU) into an NCAA contender in a matter of years since he took over the program and the respect he’s garnered internationally has landed him great recruits/champion level fencers like Laura Fekete and Mohammed Elsayed.

As a referee, he is known as one of the most fun/fair people to work with, and his ownership and command of the piste is always a masterclass in how to manage personalities and deescalate conflict (I still remember watching him tell a coach to “sit his ass down, or he’d be reading the results from Facebook.”)

As a Special Board Member, Ivan brought refreshing honesty and candor to the Board, so much that he was an easy choice for our membership in the recent elections. He keenly understands the difference between governance and operations, which is of critical importance from the Chair.

Ivan touches numerous facets of the Fencing world, and whatever he touches turns to gold. As I recently opined, we have a need as a Board to shift to a more democratic mindset, and I believe he and I are philosophically aligned on that front. And rest assured, while Ivan and I might disagree on ummm, things like getting the “Fauci Ouchie” and science-related stuff, I’ve received his commitment to allow any such motions to come to the floor for vote if God forbid another pandemic comes our way.

There’s one other elephant in the room to address here. As you may know, the Chair must come from the crop of elected At-Large Directors (Athlete reps, special board members, and independents are not eligible). As it so happens, our entire bloc of five At-Large Directors are dudes now. To Phil and David’s credit, both have done an excellent job with improving the racial and gender diversity of the Board, and also welcoming a diversity of thought/opinions. But I want to see a Chair who reflects the diversity of our membership, and I think Ivan is our best shot at that.

One other thing that needs to be mentioned here is my extreme gratitude for David Arias, who recently made the decision to not seek re-appointment of Chair in the final year of his term. Not everyone knows David. But since he took over as Chair, I have found him to be an excellent leader, always willing to actively engage with those he disagrees with, and has done a fantastic job of welcoming viewpoints from all across the Board. He inherited a difficult situation in being appointed as Chair, and all he has done since is knock it out of the park by restoring a semblance of harmony and order to the Board during a period of tumult. He is what we would call in Yiddish, a “mensch” of a guy, and I am looking forward to working with him. Without fail, in any conversation I have with David, he is pragmatic, a servant-leader, and well-respected by his colleagues across the Board. Thank you, David, for your incredible service as a volunteer to USA Fencing.

We are lucky to move forward with Ivan Lee as our Chair. There is no failure in any endeavor that Ivan has ever undertaken. His leadership is exactly what we the Board need, and what we the Fencing community need to continue driving our sport forward.

Lock. It. Up.

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