As director of admissions here at Lehigh for four decades, Missimer '50 touched thousands of lives.
Samuel H. Missimer, a 1950 Lehigh graduate who worked for decades as the university’s director of admissions before retiring in 1989, died Oct. 8 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Fountain Hill. He was 79.
For the better part of his distinguished Lehigh career, Missimer lived on Montclair Avenue, a couple of blocks from campus, and walked to work. He hardly, if ever, missed a Vespers concert, a Lehigh-Lafayette football game, or a home basketball game—even after he retired.
Missimer admitted most of the Lehigh students from about the late 1950s through 1989 and managed the landmark admission of women to Lehigh in 1971. As Lehigh’s admissions director, Missimer literally touched thousands of lives, including that of retired DuPont executive Robert A. Falcinelli,’56, ’62.
“I was not able to qualify for admission to the '56 class academically; I was not good enough. Sam took a chance on me and admitted me to the summer session '52,” Falcinelli recalled in 2004. “He said if I did well, I would be granted full admission. I did well, was admitted, and graduated from Lehigh in 3.5 years. I got an M.B.A. in '62 and spent the next 36 years as a senior executive with the Dupont Company.
“Samuel Missimer changed my life.”
Missimer’s contributions as Lehigh’s director of admissions didn’t go unnoticed. In 1961, he received the Alfred Noble Robinson Award for outstanding performance in the service of Lehigh. He was presented with the Hillman Award in 1981 for having done the most toward advancing the interests of the university and was also presented with the Paul J. Frantz Award, given to a staff administrator who combines excellent performance with a service of dedication and devotion to Lehigh.
“Sam was totally committed to Lehigh,” says Joe Sterrett, dean of athletics. “He was a proud father, a devoted husband, and as loyal a Lehigh alumnus and employee as I have known.”
Sterrett’s life was greatly influenced by Missimer. Sterrett was admitted to Lehigh by Missimer and subsequently got to know him better when Sterrett became an assistant football coach. In 1983, Sterrett moved from coaching to Missimer’s admissions department to set up Lehigh’s national recruitment program.
“He was a great supervisor. Sam allowed and encouraged me to do my job and he provided very helpful counsel. He taught me the admissions business,” says Sterrett. “Had he not admitted me or my wife (in the 2nd class of women ever at Lehigh), my life would certainly have been quite different, and had I not worked for him and then with him, my career would not have been the same either.”
In an unusual twist, Sterrett became Missimer’s supervisor in 1986.
“That was a bit weird, as I was still a fairly young guy at 32 while Sam was in his twilight professional years,” Sterrett says. “But for the next three years, we had a great working relationship and in the final years of his incredibly distinguished career, he was engaged in some pretty innovative stuff like bringing computers into the admissions world for the first time.”
Missimer is survived by his wife of 54 years, Jane A. (Kincaid) Missimer; two sons, Samuel '77 and John '85; brother, Robert; and two grandsons.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Samuel H. Missimer Scholarship Fund at Lehigh.
Lehigh Alumni Bulletin Online