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A big announcement, and big shoes to fill

I know many of you have been anxiously awaiting more details about "the BIG announcement." In case this is new news for you, let me recap:

At his State of the University Address on Friday, Oct. 7, President Greg Farrington announced that he will step down as the 12th President of Lehigh University on June 30, 2006, the end of the academic year. He will remain a vital member of the Lehigh family in his new role as Distinguished University Service Professor. In this new position, Greg will have the opportunity to focus on two projects he has always had a particular affinity for—the Shine Forever capital campaign and the expansion of Lehigh's international presence.

(For full details and the text of Greg's remarks, visit the university's special "A transition of leadership" Web page.)

In just eight years, Greg has played a significant role in propelling Lehigh into the 21st century. The university is a much different place, from new academic programs and the hiring of 156 new faculty members to the creation of new spaces (Campus Square and the Center for Optical Technologies) and the renovation of historical buildings such as Linderman Library and Grace Hall—a perfect blending of the old and the new.

For many of us, it is hard to imagine Lehigh without Greg as president. But as Greg himself said, it is one of the hardest and most significant responsibilities of any university president to decide when the time is right for a leadership transition to take place, and what better time than when the university is at the top of the charts on so many levels.

When I was hired as Alumni Director, Greg said to me, “The only thing good enough for Lehigh is the best. Now get started and create the best alumni association in the country!”

That may sound like a made-up story, but that is exactly what he said to me late in August 2001 while sitting on the front porch of the President’s home. I’ll never forget that moment … for several reasons:

1. For the conviction with which he made that statement … he meant it and expected it and I have worked my tail off to deliver just that.

2. I will always remember the pride I felt when Greg asked me to serve in this role. Like so many of you, I love this place, and to have the chance to serve my alma mater as the Alumni Director was absolutely thrilling.

3. I will also never forget the trust and confidence Greg showed in offering me this position. He took a chance on a rookie—a “young gun”—and for that I will be forever grateful. My only hope is that I have proven his choice to be the correct one.

But there’s another reason I will never forget the moment I was offered this job: It is the first, last, and only time I have ever seen Greg wearing shorts and a T-shirt! I will leave it at that. Any further details, thoughts, or observations will only get me in trouble!

It is classic Greg when he says, "When you think of it, the President of the United States only gets eight years to lead the country. If it’s good enough for him—or perhaps soon, her—it’s certainly good enough for me!" That said, we should all be extremely excited about the times ahead. As campus construction continues and dynamic educational initiatives move forward every day, the search will begin for our new leader. Once that is complete and we identify our 13th President, he or she will be handed the keys to a well-oiled and extremely well-running machine … and will have BIG shoes (and shorts!) to fill.

Chris Marshall '88
Alumni Director

Posted on Friday, October 21, 2005

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