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'A school Asa would be proud of'

Lehigh alumni owe much of their success to the intangible skills they acquired, and the interdisciplinary academic opportunities they pursued during their time here, the president of the Undergraduate Student Senate said today (Friday, Oct. 7) at the annual Founder’s Day Celebration.

Dakota DiMattio ’17 said programs like Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE), Computer Science and Business (CSB) and IDEAS (Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences) give Lehigh students an advantage over their peers.

DiMattio, a dual major in accounting and information systems, made her remarks before a crowd of faculty, staff and students who filled Packer Memorial Church to celebrate the founding of Lehigh in 1865 by industrialist and philanthropist Asa Packer.

“[These] integrated programs…and unstructured exploratory experiences like Iacocca Internships and Mountaintop projects set my peers apart in the workplace as they are able to provide alternative strategies and viewpoints,” DiMattio said.

“Capitalize on those programs that make Lehigh unique. If you’re a student, apply for that grant or program even if it’s a reach. If you’re a faculty or staff member, get involved on campus and reach out and form more substantive connections with students. Let’s continue to make Lehigh a school that Asa would be proud of.”

DiMattio’s remarks were echoed by Gorgi Pavlov ’14 ’19G, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical and biomolecular engineering and the president of the Graduate Student Senate.

Pavlov urged the audience to “remember the efforts that Asa Packer undertook to establish the research institution that we are today. Envisioned at first as a technical college with emphasis on the classics, Lehigh’s learning philosophy has evolved into what can best be described as an interdisciplinary understanding of the world.

“We are a part of a diverse and inclusive community, one that aims to make a difference,” said Pavlov. “We take each perspective into account and seek to innovate in unprecedented ways. We know that only together, we are genius.”

Founder’s Day has been celebrated every year since 1879 and is one of Lehigh’s oldest traditions. In addition to celebrating Packer’s legacy, the event has expanded in recent years to showcase alumni generosity, honor the leaders of the Lehigh community, and acknowledge new appointments and promotions of administrators and faculty members.

In 2015, Founder’s Day served as the installation ceremony for John D. Simon, Lehigh’s 14th president.

This year’s celebration was held on an unusually warm, sunny autumn day. Following the short speeches by DiMattio and Pavlov, Simon recognized the presidents of Lehigh’s undergraduate classes, and the presidents of the undergraduate and graduate Student Senates. The president noted that each officer each carried a walking stick, emblematic of Lehigh’s founder.

“Asa Packer carried a walking stick as a symbol of leadership, responsibility and wisdom,” Simon said. “In that tradition, I presented this centuries-old symbol to each president at a special ceremony in September. May it uphold them as they navigate challenges and help shape the future of Lehigh.”

Also recognized today were undergraduate and graduate Student Senate officers, the Council of Student Presidents, the Residence Hall Association, the Association of Student Alumni, Gryphons, the Student Senate and Orientation staff.

During his opening remarks for the ceremony, Lehigh Board of Trustees Chair Brad Scheler ’74, ’05P, ’08P, ’09 PG, welcomed new and returning members of the board. Scheler introduced Jennifer Gonzalez ’08 ’09G and Lia Iacocca-Assad, daughter of auto industry titan Lee Iacocca ’45.  Returning trustees were Jordan Hitch ’88, Dennis Singleton ’66, and Tara Stacom ’80.

Scheler also recognized new inductees to the Leadership Plaza (see list below), and stressed the importance of their generosity in supporting the transformative power of education.

New administrators recognized by Simon were Kristin Agatone, chief investment officer; Joseph Buck, vice president for development and alumni relations; Cheryl Matherly, vice president and vice provost for international affairs; and Henry Zheng, vice provost for institutional research.

Provost Pat Farrell welcomed new faculty, as well as those who have recently received promotions and tenure, and presided over the official installation of Stephen DeWeerth, who was named dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science in June.

The ceremony opened with music by the quintet Mainstreet Brass, followed by an invocation by Lloyd H. Steffen, university chaplain and professor of religion studies. It concluded with a benediction offered by Rabbi Danielle Stillman, associate chaplain and director of Jewish Student Life, and the singing of Lehigh’s alma mater by the Lehigh University Choir. Earlier in the ceremony, the choir performed “Glorious Lehigh,” which was arranged and conducted by Steven Sametz, the Ronald J. Ulrich Professor of Music and director of Lehigh University Choral Arts.

Following the ceremony in Packer Memorial Church, members of the audience gathered on the lawn outside the STEPS building, where the Marching 97 performed, joined by the Lehigh cheerleading squad.

Recipients of Fellowships, Professorships and Endowed Chairs

Alison and Norman H. Axelrod Summer Research Fellowship
Ju-Yeon Lee

Charlotte W. and Robert L. Brown Third Endowed Summer Research Fellowship
Naomi Rothman

Harold Chambers Junior Professorship in Materials Science and Engineering
Nicholas Strandwitz

Class of 1961 Professorships
Bryan Berger
Christopher Liang

Frank Hook Assistant Professorships
Paolo Bocchini
Bridget Dever

Iacocca Chair
Jack Lule

Steven J. and Karen A. Lee Assistant Rowing Coach
Alex Urbanik

Andrew W. Mellon Chair
Scott Paul Gordon

Presidential Chair in Health – Science and Engineering
Wonpil Im

P.C. Rossin Assistant Professorships
Wenxin Liu
Kelly Schultz
Tara Troy

Leadership Plaza Inductees (click here to learn more about these alumni and friends)
(In attendance)
Jamie and William Amelio
Shari and Jeffrey Aaronson
Bayne and Scott Belair
Helen and Gary Chan
Meg and Richard Hayne
Joan and Michael Hoben
Theodore Horger
Sharon and James Maida
Roberta and James Swenson
Alice and Richard Thall

(Not in attendance)
Webster Dawley
Anne and Robert Doolittle
Peter Hagerman (deceased)
Barbara and George Karr Jr.
Sarah and J. Stuart Ryan
George Stephanopoulos
Nancy Barna and Timothy Wilmott

Story by Linda Harbrecht and Kurt Pfitzer

Photos by Christa Neu

Video by Stephanie Veto


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Lehigh student leaders with their walking sticks.

With walking sticks issued by President Simon, student leaders gathered after the Founder’s Day ceremony. Left to right: Frederick Coleman, president of the Class of 2017; Dakota DiMattio ’17, president of the Undergraduate Student Senate, Gorgi Pavlov ’14 ’19G, president of the Graduate Student Senate; Hai Le, president of the Class of 2018; and William Pemberton ’20, president of the Class of 2020.

Gorgi Pavlov ’14 ’19G said Lehigh’s learning philosophy promotes an “interdisciplinary understanding of the world…that takes all perspectives into account.”

Gorgi Pavlov ’14 ’19G said Lehigh’s learning philosophy promotes an “interdisciplinary understanding of the world…that takes all perspectives into account.”

The packed crowd at Packer Memorial Church also enjoyed the music of the Lehigh University Choir led by Steven Sametz and the Mainstreet Brass quintet.

The packed crowd at Packer Memorial Church also enjoyed the music of the Lehigh University Choir led by Steven Sametz and the Mainstreet Brass quintet.

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