From 50s Fashion Icon to the Georgia Court of Appeals, Lenbrook Women Make History
Many very accomplished women live at Lenbrook. During Women’s History Month, we will share some of their stories and advice.
Lee Culpepper Earned Degrees from Three Georgia Universities and Values Her Strong Support System
Lee Culpepper worked as a chemical engineer, a chemist, a teacher, a stay-at-home mom, and a psychologist. She attributes her success in these roles in part to having strong family support.
“I was very fortunate to be born into a family that worked hard and supported one another. My Dad always encouraged me, saying I could be anything I wanted to be.”
In eighth grade, Lee’s family moved from New York to Atlanta. Making friends was important, and she thought that if others believed she was smart, she would be better liked. So, she took a chemistry course, made an “A”, and after graduating from high school, decided to major in Chemistry at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina.
Two years later, she transferred to the Georgia Institute of Technology. Women had been allowed at Georgia Tech for only 10 years, and at that time there were only 52 women in attendance. The state of Georgia did not yet allow women to major in anything offered anywhere else in the state system, so she majored in chemical engineering versus chemistry.
Lee also wanted to participate in campus life. She became a cheerleader, a member of the Ramblin’ Reck Club, joined Alpha Xi Delta – the only sorority, and began dating the senior class president. Georgia Tech was too difficult to manage successfully with that much social activity, and she failed out. Fortunately, she was allowed to re-enter, focused almost exclusively on schoolwork, and proudly graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering.
Her first job was with Lockheed Martin in Marietta, to ostensibly design a waste treatment plant. This role involved first testing for metals in the streams leaving the Lockheed/Dobbins area. However, once she realized that Lockheed did not plan to begin the project for several years, Lee went to work for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) where she did pesticide research.
Following graduation, Lee married Grady Thrasher. Once he graduated from law school, they moved to Leesburg, Virginia. While there, Lee taught eighth grade science. A few years later, the couple moved back to Atlanta and started a family. Lee was a stay-at-home-mom for a few years and enjoyed being a mother and homemaker. During this time, she read The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich. She became so alarmed about population growth that she organized Atlanta’s first Earth Day celebration and became the director of Zero Population Growth. Not wanting to look like a hypocrite, she resigned from that role while obviously pregnant with her second child.
Lee wanted to return to work once her two boys were old enough but realized that she preferred working with people rather than in a laboratory. This required more education, so she enrolled in Georgia State University and earned a Master of Education degree in Counseling and Psychological Services. By that time, she was divorced with two young boys and needed to work.
Her first job with her counseling degree was at the Georgia Mental Health Institute doing patient intake evaluations. Within two years, she became an alcohol and drug abuse counselor on the Addiction Unit. Her dream was to have a private practice working with people, and with financial help from her family, she earned a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the University of Georgia. Lee said she has been extremely fortunate to be blessed with “a good enough brain and the support of my mother and ex-husband as we raised our boys together.”
After completing her doctorate, Lee worked at Georgia Regional Hospital doing court ordered evaluations for adolescents. After meeting and marrying her present husband, Warren Culpepper, they moved to the mountains of Big Canoe. Within a year, with Warren’s generosity, Lee opened a private practice to provide psychotherapy for patients in her Atlanta and Jasper offices. After 23 years of helping people find more fulfilling lives, she retired in 2019.
Today, she hopes others can find what stimulates them, makes them curious, feels meaningful, fortunate and passionate. She added, “We all need to feel that our lives have meaning, and as long as we have our physical needs met and a sense of safety and belonging, we can lead a rich life. Achieving our dreams takes patience and time and does not always follow a straight path. But, if we are fortunate enough to have a good support system, are persistent, and enjoy the moments, we can have a full life.”