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President Gast addresses campus community



Lehigh President Alice P. Gast and a five-person distinguished panel— Mohamed El-Aasser, Peggy Plympton, Marcia Hamm Groover, Matthew Melone and Dan Lopresti—fielded a series of questions during the town hall meeting.

Approximately 250 members of the Lehigh community attended a town hall meeting in Packard Lab Tuesday afternoon that was called by Lehigh President Alice P. Gast. The plan is to have town hall-type meetings a couple times a year to encourage an open dialogue and to keep the campus community informed.

The first half of the 90-minute meeting was a presentation by President Gast which focused primarily on two major topics: the impact of the current economic climate on the university, and the university’s new Strategic Plan.

“I understand that many people are anxious. Over the past few months, I’ve communicated the particulars on Lehigh’s financial situation to you through a series of e-mails, and I thought it would be a good time to address these issues here,” said Gast during her remarks.

“I can begin by telling you that overall Lehigh is in a good position financially. Compared to many other colleges and universities, we are in very good shape. I credit that to a long-standing tradition of prudent fiscal management and good governance, and I am particularly grateful for that in these times.”

Gast walked the audience through a series of slides to help illustrate the university’s financial position, including the level of its endowment, which now stands at $850.3 million—a 22.5 percent decrease since last July.

“It’s certainly a hit, but it’s a hit we can manage,” she said.

She expressed her gratitude for the level of cooperation exhibited by staff and faculty in making budget cuts that did not compromise the university’s mission of teaching, research and service.

“This process is not without pain,” she said, “but it does allow us to focus on our most valuable resource—our people.”

Later in her presentation, Gast discussed Lehigh’s Strategic Plan and encouraged all members of the Lehigh community to visit the new Strategic Plan Web site to familiarize themselves with it and envision their roles in making the 10-year plan a reality.

“This plan advances Lehigh’s reputation and prestige as an institution, and a strong institution is a benefit to all of us,” said Gast. “During challenging economic environment, the Strategic Plan will help inform our decisions moving forward and will provide a blueprint for the progress we will make on various fronts.”

At the heart of this plan, she added “are the people of Lehigh, and the values we hold dear. It is our mission that drives us, and I applaud all that you do.”

Following her remarks, Gast and a five-person distinguished panel—Mohamed El-Aasser, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; Peggy Plympton, Vice President for Finance and Administration; professor Dan Lopresti, Faculty Steering Committee Chair; Matthew Melone, Faculty Financial Planning and Operations Committee; and Marcia Hamm Groover, Employee Relations Advisory Committee Chair—fielded a series of questions from the audience on a number of topics that included the university’s strategic direction, enrollment for the incoming class of students, financial aid, the job market for graduating students, and development.

In an effort to continue the dialogue following the town hall meeting, Gast pledged to hold the next town hall meeting in October and unveiled a new “Transforming Lehigh” blog. On this blog, members of the Lehigh community are encouraged to offer creative suggestions to help the university manage its finances responsibly.

-Bill Doherty


Posted on Tuesday, April 07, 2009

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