NEW LONDON - Lee VanBremen, 74, died at his home Thursday, November 15, 2012. He was born in Charleroi, Pa. and attended public schools in Belle Vernon, Pa. where his father was the school superintendent. He graduated from Penn State in 1960 with High Distinction and Phi Beta Kappa. At Penn State he was active in the University Christian Association and part of a group of students who desegregated the local barber shops.
Lee met his wife Jane on a Penn State study seminar to Europe and they were married in June, 1960. Lee graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1964. He served as the associate minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Cherry Hill, N.J. for three years. Lee was committed to the civil rights movement and in 1965 he traveled to Montgomery, Ala. to participate in a voter registration drive. In 1967 the VanBremens moved to New Britain, Conn. where Lee served as the founding staff for an ecumenical campus ministry at Central Connecticut State University. While serving as a campus minister he was elected to the local school board and became president of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. In September, 1974 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut.
The VanBremens moved next to the north shore of Chicago where Lee worked for the National School Boards Association (NSBA) as director of membership services. Two years later the family moved to Washington, DC when NSBA relocated there. Lee had a life-long commitment to strengthening the leadership of non-profit organizations. After moving to Washington he became deeply involved in association leadership and focused to a large degree on speaking and writing about the governance of non-profit organizations. He assisted some 25 non-profits to evaluate their leadership practices. He was selected as a fellow and member of the board of directors of the American Society of Association (ASAE) Executives as well as chairman of the ASAE foundation.
In 1983 Lee was hired as the executive director of the American Academy of Facial, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. In 1989 he became the executive director of the College of American Pathology and the VanBremens moved back to Chicago for the remainder of his career. He was honored by the Chicago Society of Association Executives and received the Key Award from ASAE for outstanding contributions to association leadership.
Lee's commitment to associations continued after retiring in New London in September of 2001. He served as chairman of the executive search committee for The Fells and was a member of the Fells board of directors. He was also a member of the COA board of directors and served on the church council of First Baptist Church. He also served as treasurer of the Democratic Town Committee.
Lee is survived by his wife, Jane; sisters Roberta Cline and Carol VanBremen; brothers Larry VanBremen and Jerry VanBremen; daughters and sons-in-laws, Lynn and John Gilbert and Kara and Jamie Gruver; and grandsons: Reed Gilbert, Lee Gilbert, Todd Gilbert, Parker Gilbert, Alex Gruver and Nate Gruver.
A memorial service will be held Friday, December 28, at 10 a.m., at The First Baptist Church of New London.
Memorial contributions may be made to: Good Beginnings of Sullivan County, 109 Pleasant Street, PO Box 1089, Claremont, NH 03743.
Chadwick Funeral Service of New London is assisting the family with arrangements.