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Earl ’80 leads rapidly growing Christian Alumni group

In 1991, Rich Earl ’80 founded the Lehigh Christian Alumni (LCA) to encourage Christian ministries on campus.

Ironically, back when Earl was a Lehigh undergraduate student, he seemed like an unlikely Christian—let alone a man who would grow into a Christian leader on campus two-and-a-half decades after his graduation.

Earl entered Lehigh on a wrestling scholarship, but his career on the mat quickly lost out to his budding social life. He joined a fraternity and fully enjoyed the freedoms of college, freely admitting that he “smoked pot, listened to a lot of music, and went to a lot of parties.”

It wasn’t until his senior year that Earl began to reflect on his choices.

“I became frightened about what my life was about,” Earl says. One night he called his brother at Penn State. Earl’s brother told him about his own decision to become a Christian, and in the course of the conversation, Earl also dedicated his life to Jesus.

After his conversion, Earl stopped partying and sought out other students who shared his beliefs. He spoke to the chaplain and to the religion studies department and took several religion classes. But he was unable to find other Christians to encourage him in his new faith.

Almost 10 years later, Earl had become a minister at a church in Coal Township, Pa., and he created the Lehigh Christian Alumni (LCA) to support Christian students at Lehigh. “If there were someone else in my position,” he says, referring to his post-conversion experience on campus, “they wouldn’t have to look very far to find other Christians.”

LCA began with only two to three members, but it has since grown to about 250 people. Despite the expanded size, the group’s vision remains the same:to support all evangelical Christian ministries on campus and to collect a body of alumni who will pray for the university.

The LCA meets twice a year, once in the fall for a prayer breakfast with students and in June during the Alumni Reunion. Over the past few years, the group has also given money for a Bible distribution led by current Lehigh students.

“It was the perfect fit for us,” Earl says of the Bible distribution. “We financed it and the students do it.”

While working with current students, Earl hopes that LCA will remind alumni and students that Lehigh University was founded on Christian principles.

“Lehigh’s strong Christian heritage has been swept under the rug, whether intentionally or not, by the secularization of the university,” he says.

Asa Packer founded Lehigh to educate young men in engineering and strong morals, explains David Green, the campus minister of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). In order to complete this goal, he enlisted the help of Bishop William Bacon Stevens, an Episcopalian minister. “Stevens constructed Lehigh,” Green says. “Packer provided vision, enthusiasm, and money.”

On the day Lehigh was founded, Bishop Stevens addressed the crowd at Packer Chapel, saying, “The best posture of the mind for the study of any science is a reverent recognition of the existence and presence of God.”

Earl and many members of the LCA hope that Lehigh will again adopt this reverent attitude toward education.

Several sermons by Stevens and more information about LCA can be found online. If you are interested in receiving emails from the LCA, please e-mail Rich Earl.

--Becky Straw

Posted on Wednesday, March 29, 2006

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