Lee graduated from UI with a theater degree in 1980. One of Lee's former professors, Robert Graves, said Lee originally wanted to be in the acting program, but his English wasn't very good.
Lee directed several shows and acted on the Krannert stage which helped lay the groundwork for his current movies. Graves said he's very proud of his former student.
When he spoke to Lee before the Oscars, Lee didn't think he was going to win. Lee's wife also attended UI. She was a PhD student in microbiology.