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Gast draws on Packer’s vision to meet today’s challenges

Lehigh President Alice P. Gast delivers the Founder's Day address at Packer Memorial Church.

Just as Asa Packer helped spur the 19th century transportation revolution from canal boats to trains, the university he founded must “help build the ‘American railroad’ of the 21st century,” Lehigh President Alice P. Gast said in her Founder’s Day address Friday.

“We must move from our own canals and familiar pathways to a broader and more encompassing horizon,” Gast told the gathering of university trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, and students at Packer Memorial Church. “We must stand for important principles: We must improve public education. We must strengthen long-term basic research. We must seek the best and brightest students from all corners of the world; and we must solve problems with innovative ideas that make a real difference.”

Founders Day is an annual event that honors Lehigh University leaders, including faculty members who have been awarded endowed chairs or professorships, student leaders, and donors who have given $1 million or more to support the university in the past year. In addition, this year’s ceremony recognized donors whose lifetime giving exceeds $10 million.

Addressing global challenges

In her address, Gast talked about Lehigh’s past, present, and future. Recalling Lehigh founder Asa Packer’s vision “to provide a liberal and scientific education for practical service” during the industrial revolution, Gast said the university must be prepared to meet the challenges of today’s world.

She outlined three challenges—competition from other countries for the best college students, the global environment, and public education—that she believes Lehigh “will rise to address much in the way Asa Packer would if he were here today.”

Citing a report by the American Council on Education, Gast noted that between 1999 and 2004, Australia and Germany attracted over 40 percent more international students, while Japan’s foreign enrollment grew by 108 percent. Meanwhile, the number of international students attending college in China rose by 213 percent. During that same time, the number of international students coming to the United States increased by 17 percent.

“Clearly this is a challenge and an opportunity for Lehigh,” Gast said. “We are challenged to understand and engage in higher education that spans the world and prepares our students for the future. We have an opportunity to be both a host for and a source of international students. We are embracing this opportunity to expand our horizons today.”

As the demand for energy worldwide continues to outpace new energy resources, Gast said that “many concerted efforts involving deep thinkers from broad areas of expertise are needed to meet this challenge and seize this opportunity. Our contributions to this will be important and we are working on integrating the teaching and research activities that will rise to this challenge.”

Educating our children “to a level where they can bring their talents to bear on the world challenges” is another issue Lehigh must be prepared to address, Gast said.

“Higher education faces a call to reach out to the youth of our country and to inspire them to seek, and to help them to attain, an education and life experience in an intellectually rich environment that prepares them for the competitive world we live in,” she said. “Technology has advanced knowledge to every corner of the world, and America is competing on a flat playing field with too many of our important players on the sidelines. We must take this challenge as an opportunity to lead in the effort to solve this problem.”

Faculty and donors recognized

During the Founder’s Day ceremony, the following faculty members were recognized for being awarded endowed chairs or professorships: Franklin Carter, the James T. Kane Faculty Fellow; Shin-Yi Chou, the Frank L. Magee Professorship; Mary Beth Deily, the Arthur F. Searing Professor; Debra L. Field, the Robert Cutler Endowed Professor of Practice in Choral Arts; Dan M. Frangopol, the Fazlur Rahman Khan Endowed Chair of Structural Engineering and Architecture; Dawn Keetley, a Class of 1961 Professor; Lee Kern, an Iacocca Professor; Clay J. Naito, a P.C. Rossin Assistant Professor; Chitra Nayar, the John C. Swartley Memorial Visiting Professor; Robert T. Rozehnal, a Frank Hook Assistant Professor; Paul F. Salerni, the National Endowment of Humanities Distinguished Chair; Lawrence V. Snyder, a Frank Hook Assistant Professor; John R. Spletzer, a P.C. Rossin Assistant Professor; Svetlana Tatic-Lucic, a P.C. Rossin Assistant Professor; Aurelie Thiele, a P.C. Rossin Assistant Professor; Yuliang “Oliver” Yao, the C. Scott Hartz ’68 Term Professor; and Peter K. Zeitler, an Iacocca Professor.

The following donors were recognized for giving more than $10 million to Lehigh over their lifetimes. Their names are now emblazoned with gold in Leadership Plaza:

• Joanie and Murray H. Goodman '48
• Elizabeth and Harry T. Martindale '27 (both deceased)
• Asa Packer (deceased)
• Amy and Joseph R. Perella '64
• Ada E. and Peter C. Rossin '48 (Peter is deceased)
• Ronald J. Ulrich '66
• Victoria and Robert E. Zoellner '54

And the following donors were recognized for giving $1 million or more in the past year. Their names are newly engraved in Leadership Plaza:

• Elizabeth P. and Ernest E. Althouse '26 (both deceased)
• Helene and Allen Apter '61
• Sophia G. and Eckley B. Coxe (both deceased)
• Joyce and Stephen Goldman '66
• Geraldine F. and Norman J. Merksamer 1952

--Jack Croft

Photo by Theo Anderson

Posted on Monday, October 23, 2006

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