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Summit engages alumni in grand challenges

Michael Smerconish ’84, nationally syndicated talk host, delivered a look at today’s media with “Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking.”

How can community schools change the urban educational environment? Does media drive the political agenda? How can international businesses make the most of opportunities in China? Will personalized medicine prevail 10 years from now? How can Lehigh help effect change in areas of critical importance to us all? 

More than 75 alumni and guests explored these questions and others as part of the first Lehigh Summit, held April 1-3 in Amelia Island, Florida. The event, designed for President’s and Founder’s Associates of the Asa Packer Society, offered attendees a chance to engage in discussions of real-world issues while learning more about Lehigh today.

President Alice P. Gast and Provost Patrick Farrell convened the weekend with a look at Lehigh’s role in solving the grand challenges our society faces today, kicking off a slate of thought-provoking presentations by accomplished alumni and faculty.

There also were several featured speakers. Michael Smerconish ’84, nationally syndicated talk host, delivered a look at today’s media with “Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking.”

"I was thrilled to share some thoughts about the impact of the media on the 2012 election with an engaged group of Lehigh alums in a spectacular setting," said Smerconish.

Other participants included Bill Maloney ’80, who was integral to the rescue of 33 Chilean miners last year; and George White, professor of education and director of the Center for Developing Urban Educational Leadership. A keynote presentation on “How to Fix the Financial Situation” was delivered by DealBook editor Andrew Ross Sorkin, author of the best-selling book, Too Big to Fail.

Innovations in health were the topic of a panel led by Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Studies Alan Snyder, which included Christopher Hite ’89, co-head of Global Healthcare Investment Banking at Citigroup; Sam Niedbala ’84G, ’86G, professor of practice; and Philip Sheibley, retired managing partner, Accenture.

As moderator, Snyder challenged his panelists to deliver a thesis on the future of health, and then defend their standpoint to their fellow presenters and the audience. Lively exchange ensued around such ideas as continuous remote monitoring of health conditions, the rise of personalized medicine that allows the treatment of people rather than populations, and predictions about the looming problems for the pharmaceutical industry.

“The weekend provided a unique opportunity to engage with alumni and parents and to share our approach to addressing grand challenges,” remarked Snyder. “Equally, they shared with us: Our guests became part of—and sometimes led—the discussion. I returned to campus with some existing ideas sharpened and some new ideas as well. It was an invigorating and productive exchange.”

Another panel explored whether the business scene in China was a product of too much cultural change, or too little, and how to successfully pursue opportunities. Jill Brown ’83, assistant professor of management and Axelrod Family Endowed Fellow, teamed up with Eugene Vivino ’80, leader of Strategic Planning for BD International, and Stephen Goldmann ’66, retired chairman of ExxonMobil Energy Limited, for the discussion.

“The opportunity to exchange information with alumni who have such rich and diverse business experiences was truly special,” Brown said. “Our panel offered the insights of a former CEO and a current strategic top management team member, both from multinational corporations. What could be better?”

Stephen Goldmann '66 was both a Summit presenter and a participant. "The Summit was absolutely first class. It was stimulating and challenging in a relaxed environment. The gifts and talents of our alumni and the Lehigh faculty and staff were inspiring and energizing. Hopefully, this is the first of many Summits," he remarked.

Guests also had the opportunity to enjoy “dine-around” dinners with Lehigh leadership and watch a Final Four game with Goodman Dean of Athletics Joseph Sterrett ’76.

Plans are underway for another Lehigh Summit in 2012.

Check out a photo gallery from the first Lehigh Summit

Story by Janet Norwood

Posted on Monday, April 11, 2011

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