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Past Presidents


Henry Coppee

Henry Coppee (1866-1875)

Henry Coppee worked as a railroad engineer in Georgia, served as a captain in the Army during the Mexican War, and taught at West Point and the University of Pennsylvania before becoming Lehigh's first president in 1866.

During Coppee's tenure, much building was done on the new campus. A Moravian church on Packer Avenue was remodeled into Christmas Hall; a house for the president was erected; and Packer Hall, the university center, was built. Coppee lectured in history, logic, rhetoric, political economy and Shakespeare.


John McDowell Leavitt

John McDowell Leavitt (1875-1880)

John McDowell Leavitt was an Episcopal clergyman who graduated from Jefferson College and taught at Kenyon College and Ohio University. During his incumbency, the university was divided into two schools, General Literature and Technology. As of 1876, a student could receive two engineering degrees by taking a longer course, and beginning in 1877, the master of arts, doctor of philosophy, and doctor of science degrees were established.

Linderman Library rotunda was completed in 1877. Asa Packer died in May 1879, and Founder's Day was held in his honor the following October.


Robert Alexander Lamberton

Robert Alexander Lamberton (1880-1893)

Robert Alexander Lamberton graduated from Dickinson College, practiced law in Harrisburg, Pa., and was a Lehigh trustee when he was asked to become president. During his administration, students and the community witnessed the first Mustard and Cheese dramatic presentation.

A gymnasium (now Coppee Hall) was erected, and Chandler Chemistry Laboratory was built, now known as Chandler-Ullmann Hall. Building on its reputation for academic excellence, the university established the mechanical engineering department in 1881, and founded the Lehigh chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1887.


Thomas Messinger Drown

Thomas Messinger Drown (1895-1904)

Thomas Messinger Drown studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, went abroad to study chemistry and then became professor of chemistry at Lafayette College. As Lehigh president, he was greatly interested in furthering the university's development as a technical school.

Drown's first years were difficult, as the Panic of 1893 decimated Lehigh's stock holdings in the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Nevertheless, Lehigh managed to grow in enrollment, academics and in physical plant. Williams Hall was completed. The curriculum leading to a degree in arts and engineering was established, as was the department of zoology and biology. New curricula were adopted in metallurgical engineering, geology and physics.

Drown died in office in 1904. Professor William H. Chandler became acting president.


Henry Sturgis Drinker

Henry Sturgis Drinker (1905-1920)

Henry Sturgis Drinker was an 1871 Lehigh graduate and the only alumnus ever to become president. The alumni endowment fund was established in 1907; the Lehigh Alumni Bulletin was first published in 1913; and the Alumni Association was incorporated in 1917.

A lawyer and a mechanical engineer, Drinker helped solve the problems of building the two-mile-long Musconetcong Tunnel, an engineering feat that made possible a railroad line between Easton, Pa., and New York City. He started a tradition of business-like management of university affairs.

During Drinker's years, more buildings were completed: the original section of Fritz Engineering Laboratory, Drown Hall, Coxe Mining Laboratory, Taylor Hall, Taylor Gymnasium and Field House, Taylor Stadium and Lamberton Hall. Drinker's interest in horticulture led to the planting of many rare trees and plants.

A teacher's course and a business administration course were begun in 1909, and in 1918, the university was divided into three colleges: liberal arts, business administration and engineering - roots of today's colleges. Army ROTC was established in 1919.

Drinker's daughter, Catherine Drinker Bowen, became a historical writer of note. Her experiences as the daughter of a Lehigh president and occupant of the President's House are recorded in Family Portrait (Atlantic Little-Brown).

Drinker resigned in 1920, and Natt M. Emery, vice president, served as chief executive officer until 1922.


Charles Russ Richards

Charles Russ Richards (1922-1935)

Charles Russ Richards was president when the first graduate degrees were awarded to women. Lehigh faced a shortage of students from 1929 to 1936 as a result of the Depression, but the newly established office of admissions, as well as university scholarships, fellowships, and deferred tuition payments, helped ease the decline.

Changing concepts of education were evident in several newly organized academic offerings: philosophy, music, psychology, journalism, history and fine arts. The majors system was instituted, as were the senior comprehensive examinations in the Arts College. The placement bureau, a public relations office, and a student health service were organized.

The Alumni Memorial Building, a memorial to alumni who served in World War I, and Packard Laboratory were both completed in 1925. A major addition to Linderman Library was completed the same decade.


Clement C. Williams

Clement C. Williams (1935-1944)

Clement C. Williams, a civil engineer, was president during an era of unprecedented alumni support. Undergraduate enrollment rose to an all-time high, passing 2,000 in 1938. Richards and Drinker residential houses, and the Ullmann wing of the Chandler Chemistry Laboratory, were built. Grace Hall, the first arena-type facility of any size on campus, was completed in 1940, the gift of Eugene G. Grace, an 1899 graduate, who headed the board of trustees. A graduate school implemented programs in the three colleges. Williams retired in 1944, and the university was without a president for approximately two years.


Martin Dewey Whitaker

Martin Dewey Whitaker (1946-1960)

Martin Dewey Whitaker was director of the Atomic Energy Commission Laboratory at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and worked in developing the atomic bomb. He helped Lehigh readjust to peacetime conditions after World War II.

During Whitaker's tenure, Lehigh's assets nearly tripled, and the endowment more than doubled to $18 million. Many buildings were renovated, and the Dravo House and McClintic-Marshall House residence halls were built. The number of professors increased by 75 percent, and the first distinguished professorships were established.

The Centennial development program, begun in 1959, raised more than $22 million for faculty salaries and construction that later included Whitaker Laboratory. Packer was renovated and enlarged, and became the University Center in 1958.

During the Whitaker years, 12 departments offered the master's degree, and 12 the doctor of philosophy.

Whitaker died in office.


Harvey A. Neville

Harvey A. Neville (1961-1964)

Harvey A. Neville, the only faculty member ever elected president, joined Lehigh in 1927 as an assistant professor of chemistry. During his three-year presidency, the first phase of the Saucon Valley athletic complex was completed, and Sayre Field was opened atop South Mountain. The Center for Information and Computing Science was established.

Neville, a strong supporter of research on campus, died in 1983.


W. Deming Lewis

W. Deming Lewis (1964-1982)

W. Deming Lewis became president after a distinguished career as a space engineer and research administrator.

Lewis came from a family that traces its American roots to William Lewis, an Englishman who settled in Massachusetts in 1640. His great-grandfather and grandfather were presidents of the Lewis Manufacturing Co., a textile firm in Walpole, Mass. His father owned Riverside Mills in Augusta, Ga.

At the age of 16, Lewis enrolled at Harvard. He earned three degrees there, and added two more from Oxford University in England, where he was a Rhodes Scholar in advanced mathematics. In 1941, he joined Bell Telephone Laboratories, and in 1962 he was one of four executives who started Bellcomm, Inc., in Washington, D.C., which engineered the systems for the Apollo project that placed the first man on the moon. He was granted 33 U.S. patents on such devices as microwave antennas and filter- and digital-error detection systems.

During Lewis' presidency, undergraduate women were admitted in 1971, and new majors were established in natural science, biology, social relations, geological sciences and religion studies. Interdisciplinary programs were begun in computer engineering, applied mathematics, management science and American studies. Thirteen new research centers and institutes were established. Capital campaigns brought in more than $130 million.

A frenzy of building activity saw the completion of Maginnes Hall, Whitaker Laboratory, the Mart Science and Engineering Library, Sinclair Laboratory, the Seeley G. Mudd Building and Neville Hall, 13 fraternity houses, half a dozen residence complexes, and many more. Lehigh completed its acquisition of the Saucon Valley athletic campus and built the Philip Rauch Field House, Stabler Arena and other athletic facilities. Packer Memorial Church was restored, and Packard Laboratory was renovated.

The original Physics Laboratory is now named in Lewis' honor, as is the indoor tennis center.


Peter Likins

Peter Likins (1982-1997)

Peter Likins sought to complete what he called the "transformation" of Lehigh that began under Deming Lewis. In 1997, the university dedicated the new $33-million Zoellner Arts Center, which houses the departments of theatre and music and the university art galleries. The Rauch Business Center (1990) became home to the College of Business and Economics. In 1986, Lehigh doubled its size with the purchase from Bethlehem Steel of the 800-acre Mountaintop Campus, which houses the departments of biological sciences and chemical engineering, and a half-dozen research centers, including the ATLSS (Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems) Center.

In 1988, the university replaced Taylor Stadium with the Murray H. Goodman Stadium. The E.W. Fairchild-Martindale Library and Computing Center (1985) gave Lehigh one of the most automated libraries anywhere. A major renovation to the Sherman Fairchild Center for the Physical Sciences linked Lewis Laboratory with the Sherman Fairchild Laboratory. And Lehigh installed one of the nation's first university telecommunications systems, wiring all university buildings and residences to give students and faculty access to the Internet.

In 1983, Lehigh became home to the North East Tier Ben Franklin Advanced Technology, one of four such centers established by the Pennsylvania legislature. Matching Lehigh professors with industry owners, the center has helped several hundred new businesses get started.

Likins helped establish the Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Jewish Studies, which serves Lehigh and other area colleges. He led the way in founding the Patriot League, one of two Division I athletic leagues emphasizing need-based scholarships and academic achievement.

Lehigh's financial-aid program grew greatly under Likins; half the university's undergraduates now receive assistance. The Welch Fitness Center opened in 1993, and the Iacocca Institute (1988) helped students embrace the challenges of the global economy. Taylor Residential College opened in 1984; the STAR program (1991) gave Lehigh students a chance to tutor Bethlehem school children; and the President's Scholars program (1995) offered a fifth year of tuition-free education to students with a 3.5 GPA.

The university completed the $305-million Preserving the Vision Campaign. More than half of alumni made gifts to Lehigh, placing the university second in the nation in percentage of alumni making gifts.

Likins is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the National Academy of Engineering. He has a B.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford, and an M.S. from M.I.T. He is a former provost at Columbia University. Earlier, he was a development engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology, and a professor and associate dean of engineering at the UCLA.

Likins left Lehigh to become president of the University of Arizona.


William C. Hittinger

William C. Hittinger (1997-98)

William C. Hittinger is a former chairman of the university's board of trustees, who became interim president after the departure of Peter Likins. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Hittinger served for 22 years on the board of trustees. He graduated from Lehigh in 1944 with a B.S. in metallurgical engineering, and received an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from Lehigh in 1973.

Over a 40-year career in the electronics industry, Hittinger worked for Western Electric Co., National Union Radio Corp., Bell Telephone Laboratories, Bellcomm Inc., General Instrument Corp., and RCA Corp. At Bellcomm, he oversaw systems engineering for NASA's manned spaceflight program, and at RCA, where he became executive vice president, he was responsible for corporate technology, patents, licensing, international business and marketing development, and corporate technology planning.

Hittinger was a member of President Reagan's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee from 1982-86. He was also a member of the U.S.-Brazil Presidential Committee on Science and Technology and a member of the board of directors for eight companies.

Hittinger served as national president of the Lehigh Alumni Association from 1971-72 and received the prestigious L-in-Life award in 1979. An ROTC student at Lehigh, Hittinger served in the U.S. Army in 1943-46 during World War II, rising to the rank of captain.

During Hittinger's term as chairman of the board of trustees, Lehigh began construction of the Zoellner Arts Center, completed the Ulrich Student Center, aggressively improved its financial aid for undergraduates, and completed the $305 million Campaign for Preserving the Vision. As president, Hittinger realigned the Iacocca Institute into the College of Business and Economics, oversaw the construction of the new Sayre Park Village residential complex, and helped Lehigh move forward during a time of presidential transition.


Gregory C. Farrington

Gregory C. Farrington (1998-2006)

Gregory C. Farrington was selected the 12th president of Lehigh University in May 1998. Prior to his Lehigh appointment, he had been dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Throughout his academic career, he has proven to be an innovative leader with a strong focus on the needs of students and a vision for meeting the challenges of higher education in the new millennium.

At Lehigh, Dr. Farrington championed breaking down disciplinary walls and developing creative uses of information technology to improve student learning. In addition, under his leadership, a $75-million academic venture fund was developed to encourage faculty collaboration in creating innovative academic programs that go beyond traditional boundaries, while still meeting the central challenge of educating well-rounded citizens.

He was an effective partner with the city of Bethlehem, the state and federal government, industry and other partners to make the city and region a better place to live, work and learn, while strengthening the university and spurring regional economic development. Dr. Farrington was named by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to the state's transition team for the Department of Community and Economic Development in January of 2003.


Alice P. Gast

Alice P. Gast (2006-2014)

Alice P. Gast was appointed Lehigh’s 13th president in August of 2006. Prior to her appointment at Lehigh, Dr. Gast served as vice president for research and associate provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and held the Robert T. Haslam chair in chemical engineering.

Under Gast’s leadership, Lehigh completed a campus-wide strategic planning and implementation process; concluded a $500-million capital campaign and raised an additional $225 million in new resources; expanded its work in and with the City of Bethlehem; increased the size of its physical footprint with the addition of the 750-acre Stabler Campus; constructed a $62 million multi-disciplinary science, technology, environment and policy for society (STEPS) building; and vastly expanded its global profile, seeing the percentage of international students on campus double and ensuring that nearly 40 percent of Lehigh students would have a global experience before graduation. Gast also was driving force behind the acquisition of two former Bethlehem Steel research facilities on South Mountain and the creation of the Mountaintop project, which officially launched in the summer of 2013 and provided students with a unique, open-ended educational experience.

A highly respected researcher who studies surface and interfacial phenomena, Gast during her tenure received several honors and accolades. In 2010, Dr. Gast was named to the prestigious post of U.S. Science Envoy by the U.S. State Department. As one of three science envoys named in 2010, Dr. Gast traveled to the Caucasus and Central Asia and has advised the White House, the Department of State, and the U.S. scientific community about ways to deepen existing ties and foster new relationships there. That same year, Dr. Gast was awarded an honorary degree from The University of Western Ontario, where she was described as “a scholar, a researcher and a leader who is a great inspiration to female and male students alike, who aspire to enter the profession of engineering.” And in 2012, she was awarded an honorary professorship from East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST).

An advocate for women studying in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Gast created a $1 million scholarship for female Lehigh students in those fields in 2012. That scholarship fund was later named the Alice P. Gast Women in STEM Scholarship in her honor.

Gast departed Lehigh to become president of Imperial College, London.


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