A brand-new U.S. citizen
By Lynn R. Parks
Tim Lee, born near Wales and raised in Buckinghamshire, England,
is a brand-new American citizen. He was one of 64 people who swore
their allegiance to this country on Dec. 2 in the United States
District Court, Wilmington.
But Lee, 36, is not new to this country. The history teacher and
soccer coach at Seaford High School left Great Britain at the age
of 20 to attend Geneva College near Pittsburgh. Since then he has
maintained residency in the United States. He has gotten married,
had two sons and led his soccer teams to 104 wins in the Henlopen
"Obtaining my citizenship was not a high priority for me," said
Lee. "All it would allow me to do was vote, but with everything
else, I was all right. I paid the same taxes and had the same rights
as everyone else."
But several years ago, something happened to change Lee's mind:
The Seaford School District held a referendum. And the school teacher
and father of two district children was not allowed to vote.
"I worked here," he said. "My wife worked here. My two kids were
here. I owned a house here. But I was allowed no say in where my
taxes were going. That angered me."
So Lee registered his intent to obtain citizenship, the first step
in the two-year process. In November, he scored 100 percent on the
18-question test on American history and government - something
he felt he had to do since those are the subjects he teaches in
the high school - and in December, he was notified that his swearing-in
ceremony was set to be presided over by judge Gregory M. Sleet.
"It was not really an emotional experience for me," said Lee of
the ceremony that featured a welcome speech delivered by Virginia
Trader of the Seaford chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
"I have lived here for so long, I really don't feel any different."
But come November, Lee will participate in his first American election.
He has cast a vote only one other time, in 1982 when he voted for
Margaret Thatcher for prime minister.
Lee's father, Brian, was a professional soccer player for the Portvale,
England, team before being injured in a charity rugby match. He
was named coach for the Wyckomb Wanderers, a semi-professional soccer
team, and was director at Bisham Abbey, a national training center
for athletes interested in competing in soccer, rugby, field hockey,
lawn tennis or weight-lifting.
it was no wonder that young Lee took to sports. At Reading Blue Coat,
the private school he attended, he played on the soccer, rugby and
cricket teams and at the club level in squash, tennis, water kayaking,
rifle shooting, basketball, golf, track and field, where he specialized
in high jump and javelin throw.
At the age of 15, teens in England can choose to leave school to pursue
careers; those who want to go to college continue in secondary education
for two more years. Lee, interested in a professional soccer career,
left school. But "it didn't take off," said Lee. Of the ten or so
men who tried out for the same team Lee was trying out for, only one
was signed to play. "There were a lot of riots at soccer games at
that time and teams were being required to make their stadiums safer,"
Lee said. "So there was not much money. I like to think that was why
they did not sign me."
So, while playing for the Wanderers (his dad had left as coach by
then), Lee pursued training in furniture making from Ercol Furniture,
a London-based company that exports furniture all over the world.
The four-year course covered everything from selecting suitable trees
for wood to selling the end product. In 1983, his training completed,
he approached the firm about a job in the business end of the company.
But England was in the middle of a recession - unemployment was at
30 percent - and there was nothing for him. "We'll keep you in mind,"
he was told.
Meanwhile, Lee's older brother, Bryn, was traveling in the United
States. "He visited up and down the East Coast and when he came home,
he told me that America was the place for me to be," Lee said. The
younger Lee had become interested in attending college but had discovered
that it would take about six years of study to make up for the two
years he had missed earlier. "Colleges in England are very competitive,
more so than over here," he added. "Here, as long as you have the
money, there is some college that will take you."
Through contacts with the soccer association, Lee connected with Chris
Wright, coach of the Pittsburgh Spirit, an indoor soccer team that
has since disbanded. With a promise that he could play exhibition
games with the team and participate in summer camps, Lee chose a college
"I had never really been into academics," Lee said. "I was afraid
that I would not be able to do it, and I missed home." But with the
support of friends and professors, he succeeded. He graduated with
a 3.0 average and was named to the Academic All-American team, based
on grades as well as athletic performance, once; he was also named
to the All-American team, based only on athletic performance, three
While at college, Lee met Kristin Borders, a 1984 Seaford High School
graduate. They were married in June 1988 and moved to Seaford to be
near her parents, Jake and Dolly. After working for Dover Mill Works,
Greenwood, and at Sussex Central Middle School, Millsboro, Lee was
hired as history teacher at Seaford High School in 1990. He became
head soccer coach the next year.
"People ask me how I got to Seaford," Lee said. "I became a Christian
when I was in college and I know why I am here. This is where God
wants me. I really believe it."