The development of leadership qualities in students and the embrace of change will contribute to Lehigh’s evolution even as the university remains committed to the vision and values of its founder, said Karl Brisseaux ’11, the keynote speaker at the 2010 Founder’s Day ceremony held in Packer Memorial Church on a brilliant autumn afternoon.
Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd Friday afternoon, Brisseaux said his own personal development resulted from the experiences he had on campus and the causes in which he participated. These included an orientation session on sexual violence awareness and prevention, a series of programs sponsored by the Black Student Union, and even an ice skating outing with fellow first-year students.
“Although I came out of that ordeal a little bit bruised, I came away with an important lesson about building community and encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones,” he said.
As a result of these experiences, Brisseaux said he became active on campus as a peer educator with the Break the Silence sexual violence prevention group, and as a residence hall Gryphon, fraternity chapter president, editor of the Brown and Black student publication, member of the Black Student Union and advocate for multiculturalism.
“Leadership is a call to action,” he said, “and the lessons learned from those who exemplify outstanding leadership make us more valuable members of our communities.”
Brisseaux was introduced by Lehigh President Alice P. Gast as “a real student leader during his four years at Lehigh.” He was also acknowledged as a driving force behind the recent university drive to raise $16,000 for victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, where many of his relatives still live.
Following his talk, Brisseaux was presented with a walking stick, “a symbol of leadership, responsibility and wisdom,” according to Provost Patrick V. Farrell.
“May it uphold you as you navigate the challenge of today and shape the future,” Farrell told Brisseaux, before also acknowledging other student leaders in attendance.
Infused with new spirit
The traditionally solemn ceremony honoring Lehigh founder and 19th-century industrialist Asa Packer was imbued with a renewed sense of festivity this year.
The ceremony was opened by Rabbi Seth Goren, who offered the invocation, and Gast, who welcomed attendees and reviewed the history of the annual event.
The university’s first Founder’s Day was held in 1879, and began with the unveiling of the full-length portrait of Packer that still hangs in the Alumni Memorial Building. That day concluded with student races, sporting events and a fireworks display, Gast said.
“We have put the festivities back into Founder’s Day through a series of spirited contests and activities that occurred this week,” she said, before encouraging attendees to attend the early evening Homecoming celebration and a pep rally that featured the Marching 97, cheerleaders and the university mascot, Clutch.
How would Packer have reacted to this celebratory interpretation?
Gast speculated that he would “be excited and gratified to see how his vision has blossomed. He would be awestruck at the faculty whose promotions and endowed chairs we are celebrating today. He would be thrilled by the generosity of the donors on Leadership Plaza, and he would be excited to meet the student leaders who joined our procession today—another stellar group of Lehigh men and women who are poised to lead our great nation and the world. And he would take enormous pride in the 70,000 alumni who call Lehigh University home.”
Gast also acknowledged the contributions of the university’s Board of Trustees—many of whom were in attendance—and welcomed five new trustees: Eduardo D. Glandt, Margaret E. Goodman ’80, J. Stuart Ryan ’81, Karen O’Donnell VanderGoot ’99, John “Jack” Vresics ’81.
The ceremony recognized Alan J. Snyder, who joined Lehigh this summer as vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies; Gerard P. Lennon, professor of civil engineering, who was recently named deputy provost for academic affairs; and Vincent Munley, professor of economics, who was recently named deputy provost for faculty affairs.
Also honored were faculty members who were recently appointed to endowed chairs, fellowships and professorships. These included:
- Robert Booth, the Frank Hook Assistant Professor of earth and environmental sciences
- Frank Curtis, the P.C. Rossin Assistant Professor of industrial and systems engineering
- Robin Hojnoski, the Frank Hook Assistant Professor of school psychology
- Arpana Inman, associate professor of counseling psychology, who was appointed to a Class of 1961 Professorship
- Christopher Kiely, the Harold Chambers Senior Professor and director of Lehigh’s Microscopy School and Nanocharacterization Laboratory
- Nitzan Lebovic, assistant professor of history, who was appointed to the Helene and Allen Apter ’61 Chair in Holocaust Studies and Ethical Values
- Yvonne Lu, assistant professor of accounting, who was appointed to the Thomas J. Campbell ’80 Professorship
- Patricia Manz, associate professor of school psychology, who was appointed to a Class of 1961 Professorship
- Ziad Munson, professor of sociology and anthropology, who was appointed to a Class of 1961 Professorship
- Jesus Salas, assistant professor of finance, who was appointed to the Theodore A. Lauer Professorship
- Nelson Tansu, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, who was appointed to a Class of 1961 Professorship
- Parvathinathan Venkitasubramaniam, the P.C. Rossin Assistant Professor of electrical and computer engineering
- Andrew Ward, associate professor of management, who was appointed to the James T. Kane Faculty Fellowship
- Xuanhong Cheng, the P.C. Rossin Assistant Professor of materials science and engineering
The following faculty members were awarded tenure at their current rank of associate professor:
- Floyd D. Beachum, urban school leadership
- Alexander Wiseman, comparative and international education.
The following were promoted to the rank of full professor:
- Ivan Biaggio, physics
- Shin-Yi Chou, economics
- Barbara Pavlock, English
- Richard Vinci, materials science and engineering
The following were promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure:
- Grace Caskie, counseling psychology
- Kate Crassons, English
- James Gilchrist, chemical engineering
- Kristen Jellison, civil and environmental engineering
- Stefan Maas, biological sciences
- Stephen Peters, earth and environmental sciences
- Slava V. Rotkin, physics
- Eugenio Schuster, mechanical engineering and mechanics
- Mark Skandera, mathematics
- Lawrence Snyder, industrial and systems engineering
- Jill Sperandio, educational leadership
- Aurelie Thiele, industrial and systems engineering
- Edward Whitley, English
- Yuliang “Oliver” Yao, management.
Also recognized were new donors for the Leadership Plaza, including Asa Packer Society members and the following individuals:
- George Bovenizer ’63, ’64G and his wife, Lynn
- Donald Gruhn ’49 and his wife, Judy
- Gay and Douglas Lane ’67
- John M. Thalheimer ’55 and his wife, Joan
- Robert S. Nanovic ’60G and his wife, Elizabeth
- Kenneth R. Woodcock ’65
- Elizabeth A. Leach, sister of Orin T. Leach ‘34
Presidents of the undergraduate classes and members of the Student Senate, the Graduate Student Senate and the Association of Student Alumni also were installed.
The ceremony featured a performance of a new composition by Steven Sametz, the Ronald J. Ulrich Professor of Music, titled “En Kelohenu” (“There is None Like Our God”). The choral work was performed by the Lehigh University Glee Club directed by Sametz.
In addition, a student-produced video reflecting on the role of leadership and generosity in the life of the university and its students was shown.
The benediction was given by Anjan Gupta ’12, president of the Hindu Students Council.
Photos by Theo Anderson