I have spent the majority of my professional life working in the world of higher education, which means I have of course seen more than my fair share of graduation ceremonies. But even after all of these years, I still walk away from each Commencement Day feeling as though I just witnessed something truly special—and truly powerful, too.
Such was the case again in late May, as our university community gathered to celebrate the achievements of the Lehigh Class of 2017. Despite the less-than-ideal weather, the day was nothing short of what a college graduation ought to be: a celebration of what our young graduates had achieved and an opportunity to look hopefully to the future.
The Class of 2017 is a group of truly wonderful young people—bold, creative, ambitious individuals who have made us proud during their time on South Mountain, and will most assuredly continue to make us proud in the years to come. In this group I see future scholars and business leaders, artists and educators, innovators and entrepreneurs. In other words, I look at that group, and I see almost limitless potential.
But of course, exactly what becomes of these new graduates’ careers—what becomes of their lives—is entirely up to them. Their futures lie in their own hands, to be shaped only by their ambition, their intellect and their willingness to put in the hard work that is inevitably tied to all greatness. This enormous sense of possibility—this exhilarating idea that all things are possible—is something I take away from every graduation I attend, and now that I serve as Lehigh’s president, the graduations also serve as annual reminders of our shared obligation to continue fashioning a brighter future for this great university. Just as our new graduates have the opportunity to build any life they wish, so too do we have the chance every day to build a better Lehigh.
A few months back we unveiled our “Path to Prominence,” which lays out a bold vision for a new Lehigh—one that will include a larger student body, an expanded faculty, a new college of health and crucially important building projects. It is a plan that will make our university larger, yes. But this initiative is not about growth alone; rather, it is about recognizing our current strengths and building on them in order to make a greater impact on the world.
We aim to craft an even more powerful undergraduate and graduate/professional student experience. We endeavor to support research that changes lives for the better. We will expand our commitment to support our hometown of Bethlehem, and we will strive to make Lehigh a truly global university. The Path to Prominence is our roadmap to achieve all of these things—and we actually believe it could spur us to achieve even more. I invite you to learn more about Lehigh’s future by visiting the Path to Prominence site, which you can see at lehigh.edu/path. There, you can read in closer detail our vision for this university, as well as learn how you can do your part to help us achieve it.
As always, I thank you for your loyalty to Lehigh. And I know that everyone in the campus community does as well.
John D. Simon, President
Follow President Simon on Instagram @lehighpressimon