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Student Speakers Call for Unity, Caring in Founder’s Day Remarks

Student speakers at Lehigh’s 139th Founder’s Day celebration challenged the Lehigh community to show leadership through inclusivity, empathy and concern to become, like founder Asa Packer, “leaders that change the world.”

Undergraduate Student Senate President Matthew Rothberg ’18 said that Americans are currently facing an ultimatum, and the decision they make in the face of a deeply divided nation will decide our collective future.

“We either learn to adapt to the fact that American culture is going to change with the assimilation of other cultures, or do your best to fight it,” he said. “Naturally, you’ll have those that try to fight it through intolerant and horrendous acts, but we have the ability, choice, and responsibility to do what we know is right.”

Our great university, he said, is not exempt from acts of hate or intolerance. “We need to be vigilant of our past so that we can make progress for our future. Only through vigilance and the courage to stick to our principles can we ensure the safety, security, and rights of all of our community members…. At Lehigh, we want everyone to feel at home, but they can’t feel at home if they don’t feel accepted.”

Rothberg said this level of concern extends to simple acts such as stepping in to help a classmate who is incapacitated from alcohol consumption, or someone who might be harassed for minority status. “Bystander intervention is essential if we want to foster a community of global citizens and ensure the prosperity of this institution in the long term,” he said.

President of Graduate Student Senate Nick Ungson ‘15G, ‘18G struck a similar note, referencing the divided nation that existed when Lehigh was founded. “But our founder, Asa Packer, held true to principles that sought to undermine these divisions, to unite us,” he said.

As someone who has given a great deal of thought to leadership and its inherent responsibilities, Ungson said a key component is “not just the capability, but the desire to empathize with your colleagues.”

This aspect, he said, “means trying to understand the unique struggles affecting those people you work with. This kind of understanding is what helps unite groups together under a common goal, the knowledge that we are all looking out for each other.”

Being a Lehigh student, he said, “is not just about earning a degree, but the reassurance that people care about you and want you to succeed.”

Calling for the continuation of a supportive community, Ungson said the contributions of both undergraduate and graduate students will “ensure that Lehigh is producing the kind of leaders that Asa Packer imagined: leaders that unite, leaders that change lives, and leaders that change the world.”

At the conclusion of their remarks, both speakers were presented with walking sticks, emblematic of Lehigh’s founder.

One of Lehigh’s oldest traditions

Since 1879, Founder’s Day has been marked every year since Packer’s death and is one of Lehigh’s oldest traditions. With few exceptions, the ceremony has been held in Packer Memorial Church, which was built in his memory by Packer’s daughter Mary.

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. Two years ago, the ceremony also included the installation of John D. Simon as Lehigh’s 14th president.

In opening this year’s ceremony, Simon said he wanted to honor and thank former Board of Trustees’ chair Brad E. Scheler ’74, ‘05P, ‘08P, ’09PG, and highlighted his leadership at a critical time for Lehigh.

“The university was experiencing significant growth and change,” Simon said. “Under his watch, Lehigh premiered the student Mountaintop learning experience, strengthened our partnership with South Bethlehem, opened the Lehigh-at-Nasdaq Center and the Western Regional Office in California, renovated historic Williams Hall, expanded Lehigh’s global footprint, and enriched diversity and inclusion programming and initiatives.”

This year’s celebration was held on a brisk, sunny late October afternoon, and opened with the installation of Lehigh’s new chair of the Board of Trustees, Kevin L. Clayton ’84, ’13P. Scheler  lauded Clayton’s lifelong devotion to Lehigh – which included his role as interim president during the 2014-15 academic year --  and his generosity toward the university. Characterizing his performance as “exemplary,” Scheler presented him with a walking stick “in the style of Asa Packer’s,” he said. “May it always be a reminder of your leadership role at Lehigh.”

During his remarks for the ceremony, Clayton recognized new trustees Gary Chan ’80, P’17, and Andrew Woodward ’11, as well as returning and existing members of the board. “There are,” he said, “no greater stewards of Asa Packer’s legacy and foresight than our Board of Trustees, who play a critical role in advancing our founder’s vision. Thank you for all that you do for Lehigh, day in and day out.”

Clayton 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. Earlier in the ceremony, Simon also thanked members of the Tower Society and noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Asa Packer Society, one of Lehigh’s top giving societies.

Following the remarks by the students, Simon recognized the presidents of Lehigh’s undergraduate classes, and the presidents of the undergraduate and graduate Student Senates. Also recognized today were undergraduate and graduate Student Senate officers and leaders of other student organizations.

Honoring outstanding administrators and faculty

New administrators recognized Simon by Provost Pat Farrell were Robert Flowers, deputy provost for faculty affairs; Ricardo Hall, vice provost for student affairs; Katherine Lavinder, dean of students; Khanjan Mehta, inaugural vice provost for creative inquiry and director of the Mountaintop Initiative; Donald Outing, Lehigh’s first vice president for equity and community; John W. Welty, vice provost for the Western Regional Office; and Steven Wilson, assistant provost for academic affairs.

Farrell welcomed new faculty, as well as those who have recently received promotions and tenure, and honored outgoing dean of the College of Education, Gary Sasso, who will be retiring at the end of the 2017-18 academic year. Farrell praised Sasso’s leadership style, his fearless advocacy for the college he leads and his deep care and concern for his colleagues.

Farrell presented Sasso with a walking stick, as “a reminder of the wisdom and support you bestowed on so many who now carry your spirit forward.”

Also presented with a walking stick was Jim McIntosh, professor emeritus of sociology, who served five decades in the classroom and demonstrated enormous dedication to his students. “Jim McIntosh has been fully present for over 50 years, and our university is better for it,” said Simon in presenting the stick. Attendees responded with a standing ovation in honor of McIntosh.

Joseph Sterrett ’76, ‘78G, ‘03P, ‘05P, ‘07P, ‘09P, the Murray H. Goodman Dean of Athletics, presided over the installation of Sean Leary as the first Peter E. Bennett ’63 Head Baseball Coach. Bennett was also lauded for his extensive support of the Lehigh athletics program, which includes the recent contribution to complete renovation of the Walker Field baseball complex.

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. Steffen also delivered the benediction at the conclusion of the hour-long ceremony. The singing of the alma mater by those in attendance officially closed the ceremony as attendees filed out of Packer Chapel.

Following the ceremony in Packer Memorial Church, members of the audience gathered on the lawn outside the STEPS building for a Founder’s Day Rally, which was led by the Marching ’97 and Lehigh cheerleading squad.

Recipients of Fellowships, Professorships and Endowed Chairs

Class of 1961 Professorships

William Bulman
Xuanhong Cheng
Marietta Peytcheva

Frank Hook Assistant Professorships

Irina Panovska
Brook Sawyer

Iacocca Chair

Arpana Inman

Frank L. Magee Professor

William Forster

P.C. Rossin Assistant Professorships

Jonas Baltrusaitis
Brandon Krick
Spencer Quiel

Dolores T. and William E. Schiesser Faculty Fellow

Jeetain Mittal

University Distinguished Professor

Laura Olson

Joseph A. Waldschmidt Chair in Physics

Ivan Biaggio

Chandler Weaver Chair of Engineering and Science

Chengshan Xiao

Leadership Plaza Inductees

Elinor K. Bretzlaff (deceased)
John K. Deichler ’30 (deceased)
Virginia and Bernard R. Hale ’30 (deceased)
Karen and Paul S. Levy ‘69
Amy R. Frolick and Brad Eric Scheler ’74, ‘05P, ‘08P, ‘09PG
Hemali and Sanjay D. Shah ‘89G

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University administrators and faculty process into Packer Memorial Church at the start of the 139th Founder's Day. Click here to see more photos. 

Kevin Clayton '84, '13P succeeded Brad E. Scheler '74, '05P, '08P, '09PG, the former chair of Lehigh's Board of Trustees.

Undergraduate Student Senate President Matthew Rothberg '18 urged attendees to help create a more welcoming Lehigh. " We want everyone to feel at home, but they can’t feel at home if they don’t feel accepted," he said.

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