At other times, during similar forums, I have stood before you to talk about how every generation of Lehigh University leadership has the profound responsibility to do what is best for this institution we all love. No one truly owns Lehigh. We are only caretakers of this wonderful university, and it is our duty—each and every one of us—to leave it a better place than we found it.
I have taken that sacred trust to heart, and today, I believe that Lehigh is a better place in so many ways than it was when I first arrived on campus almost eight years ago. You all have made wonderful things happen, and I thank you with all the sincerity that is in me.
Some years ago, my thesis advisor mentioned to me a famous quote of Isaac Newton – you know, the Newton of calculus, and apple trees, and gravity. Newton said, “If I have seen further [than certain other men] it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”
Sir Isaac may have been referring to the works of Galileo and Kepler that preceded his own earth-shaking discoveries, but, at the risk of being slightly presumptuous, I think I appreciate how he felt. The Lehigh of today, this wonderful university that is enjoying remarkable success across virtually all areas of the institution has been built upon the firm foundation laid by generations of talented and dedicated Lehigh people who had the vision and commitment to strive always for the very best.
Lehigh’s progress has been made possible by everyone in this room. And Lehigh could not have asked for more loyal, dedicated and conscientious stewards than all of you. Thank you for allowing me to stand on your shoulders.
All of these thoughts bring me to another significant responsibility that I believe every president has to his or her university. It is knowing when the time is right for a leadership transition to take place. In fact, one of the greatest challenges and opportunities a president and a board of trustees must face is choosing when to pass the baton of leadership.
After a great deal of contemplation and discussion with trusted and thoughtful members of the campus community, I believe that time has come. Things are going really well and, in the words of my 86 year old email and internet enthusiast mother, who sends me advice on a regular basis, “leave while the lights are still on….” Well, the lights are more than on, they are shining brightly.
So today, I am announcing that I will step down from my role as Lehigh’s 12th president in June of 2006. Of course, you won’t be getting rid of me quite that easily, as I will continue on at Lehigh, holding the board-appointed role of Distinguished University Service Professor. I’ll just have a bit more time for normal life, and I look forward to that.
While the timing of this announcement may seem unexpected, I assure you that I did not just wake up this morning and decide it would be a good day to change jobs. This decision has been months in the making. It’s important to note that during this same time period, the executive committee of the board of trustees was considering the same transition issues.
After thoughtful discussion over the past month, the members of the executive committee and I have jointly agreed that the end of the 2006 academic year would be a good time to make a transition in Lehigh’s leadership.
I’d like to thank board chairman Jim Tanenbaum for being with us this afternoon. It was Jim who encouraged me to agree to continue on as Lehigh’s Distinguished University Service Professor. In this role, I will focus my attention, in part, on the continued success of the Campaign for Lehigh and the expansion of Lehigh’s international presence. As you all know, both of these areas have been of considerable interest to me throughout my time here, and I look forward to being able to help contribute to the progress we have made.
Preserving the momentum of Lehigh’s progress across all areas of the university is one of the most important factors in my decision to step down. The strength of the leadership team now in place, our sound long-range planning, and the many successes of the past mean that the stars are aligned for Lehigh to thrive for a long time to come.
This is my eighth year at Lehigh. It’s as long as I have held any job in my career. 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!
Please remember the favorite saying of mine: The only thing good enough for Lehigh is the best. Thank you for giving your best. I have proudly given you mine.
Now, I think Jim Tanenbaum has asked if he can share a few words with you. Jim?
Posted on Friday, October 07, 2005