Deciding when a person is ready for a Bush Fellowship is “an art, not a science,” according to Martha Lee, who served as manager of the Bush Fellowship Program before leaving in December 2014 to start her own consulting practice. “I think it starts with a person who has some scars. A person who’s been knocked down and had to pick themselves up—people who know what they don’t know, who are at the point where the investment in them could really make a difference.”

Hired in 1994 by Foundation President Humphrey Doermann and Bush Leadership Fellowship Director John Archabal, Lee started in a part-time role that required some heavy lifting. Literally. “It was my job to send out the application forms, sort out the information, request the references…there were bags of mail. And it was my job to open them up.

“There were so many bright, accomplished people who were Fellowship applicants or were working at the Foundation—I was just praying I wouldn’t sound stupid,” Lee remembers, laughing. But by the time her mentor Archabal retired in 2009, she had a firm grounding in the Foundation’s long legacy of investing in individuals.

During her 20 years at the Foundation, she says, she learned two things. “I found out that the Foundation needed the grantees as much as the grantees needed the Foundation, because we learned so much from them. Second, this idea of providing an invitation to people to step outside their comfort zone in the service of their own learning and growth is crucial. Not a lot of other foundations do it, so my hope is that the Bush Foundation will continue to invest in bright, accomplished individuals with great potential.” —Nick Coleman


Martha Lee (Photo Bruce Silcox)