In 1865, Asa Packer founded a university that would contribute to the "intellectual and moral improvement" of the Lehigh Valley. One hundred and fifty years later Lehigh University has its eye on the future, redefining what it means to lead every step of the way.


Forties, Fifties, Sixties

World War II changed the United States as a whole forever—but had a particularly massive impact on both Lehigh and the city of Bethlehem. Bethlehem Steel grew into a powerhouse during the war years, and poured its wealth back into the university, which would in turn welcome not only greater numbers of students, but greater diversity as well. As the same time, Lehigh faculty embarked on research projects of ever-growing importance.

Lamberton Hall

Grace Hall and Lamberton Hall Dedicated

Two buildings that became centers for student life were celebrated during the 75th anniversary celebrations of Lehigh. Bethlehem Steel President Eugene Grace '99 built Grace Hall to house social and athletic events. Lamberton Hall opened as a dining hall in 1907, but closed due to lack of use until renovated, and renamed after President Robert A. Lamberton.

Margaret Lams

First Woman to Receive Research Scholarship

A female biochemist, Margaret Lams, is the first woman to receive a research scholarship at the university.

Women are enrolled in a war-time emergency course.

Lee Iacocca

Lee Iacocca ‘45 Starts at Ford Motor, Co.

Known as the “father of the Mustang,” Iacocca rose through the ranks to become president of Ford in 1970. After being fired in a power struggle with Henry Ford II, Iacocca became chairman of the rival Chrysler Corporation, where he cemented his place in automotive history by turning around the ailing company. In 1988 Lehigh established the Iacocca Institute on Mountaintop Campus, which is now the home for the Global Village for Future Leaders of Business and Industry and the Lee Iacocca International Internships program.

Martin D. Whitaker is named president.

Mrs. H. Barrett Davis is appointed as an instructor of journalism, becoming the first woman to hold a full-time faculty position.

Fritz Testing Machine

5,000,000 pound load capacity

Bethlehem Steel Company creates the world's largest tension-compression testing machine to be placed in Fritz Engineering Laboratory. Designed by Lehigh engineer Dick Stiles, it was featured in Life magazine.

Costel Denson

First African-American Graduate

During his four years on campus, Costel Denson '56 was a “minority of one.” Denson joined the fencing team and eventually became captain. After graduation, he went on to have a stellar academic and corporate career, returning to Lehigh in 1968-69 as a visiting professor in chemical engineering. He later created a scholarship for chemical engineering students.

Gryphon Society emblem

The Gryphon Society is formed

In Greek mythology, Gryphons are winged beasts—half eagle, half lion—and keepers of the gold. At Lehigh, Gryphons also protect the "gold" —students. The society was founded by a group of residence hall counselors who promoted the idea of a "living group" as a way to bond both socially and professionally. Today's Gryphons have expanded roles and a broader reach as mentors, advocates and role models for the more than 2,400 students living in residence halls on campus. They enforce university policies as well.

McClintic-Marshall dorm opens. 

Dr. William S. Pierce

Creating an Artificial Heart Pump

Dr. William S. Pierce '58 graduates from Lehigh with a degree in chemical engineering. Pierce led development of the first artificial heart pump, a milestone in the 1970s in medical technology and integrated research. The device, which has saved thousands of lives, was designated an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Harvey A. Neville

Harvey A. Neville Named President

After President Whitaker’s death in 1960, Harvey Neville became the first staff member to be named president. Neville joined Lehigh in 1927 as an assistant professor of chemistry, was Department Chair from 1938-1952 and served as Director of the Institute for Research and Dean of the Graduate School. He was also University Provost for four years before becoming Lehigh's ninth president. Neville Hall is named in his honor.

Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi ‘62

From South Mountain to Saudi Arabia

Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi '62 graduates from Lehigh with a B.S. in geology. Al-Naimi rose through the ranks at Saudi Arabian Oil Co. (Aramco), the world’s largest energy company, serving as CEO from 1988 through 2015. He is currently the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources for Saudi Arabia.'

Noted writer Catherine Drinker Bowen, daughter of the university’s sixth president, becomes the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Lehigh University. 

W. Deming Lewis

W. Deming Lewis Named 10th President

W. Deming Lewis became president after a distinguished career as a space engineer and research administrator. In 1962 he was one of four executives who started Bellcomm, Inc., which engineered the systems for the Apollo project that placed the first man on the moon. The Lewis Tennis Facility and the original physics laboratory are named in his honor.

Iacocca Hall

School of Education Formed

A department within the College of Arts and Sciences since 1933, Education became its own school with John A. Stoops as the first dean. As a place where research becomes practice, what is now known as the College of Education is a home for breakthrough models of learning, as well as professional development in the field of education.

Dr. Joseph I. Goldstein

Studying Moon Rocks

Lehigh is given lunar samples for testing conducted by Dr. Charles Sclar and Dr. Joseph I. Goldstein. Their research would help prove that the moon’s craters were caused by collisions from meteors. The rocks were put on display (under armed guard), and more than 5,500 spectators came to see them.