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Transforming Lehigh

When Lehigh's presidential search committee undertook the task of finding the right person to succeed Peter Likins in 1998, we were looking for someone who could have a transformative impact on the university. Someone who--by dint of his character, experience, academic background, and vision--could boldly take Lehigh to a higher level.

As chairman of that search committee, I oversaw the process as we narrowed the field of candidates down to a dozen or so. After a fair amount of due diligence by myself and the committee, we decided that Greg Farrington had exactly the characteristics that we wanted. He was incredibly intelligent, highly creative, and knew how to get things done in terms of raising the academic levels of top-tiered institutions such as Lehigh.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Greg had the reputation as their most creative academician, a dean who was able to bring together different colleges, such as engineering, business, and architecture, to create innovative, cross-disciplinary programs. Given Lehigh's unique positioning as a relatively small university with four separate colleges, we thought that his background at Penn resonated exceptionally well with what we thought he could do at Lehigh. Time has proven that we were right.

Under Greg's leadership, Lehigh has enjoyed what can only be considered an academic renaissance. One of his great achievements, if not his greatest achievement, was continuing to raise our academic profile. He accomplished this through a two-pronged approach: by setting rigorously high standards for hiring new faculty, as well as for promotion and tenure, and by creating those new interdisciplinary programs. Integrated Business and Engineering, Design Arts, and Integrated Product Development are just a few of the innovative programs that have been launched since Greg arrived on campus. The result is that Lehigh is even more competitive today when it comes to getting the best and brightest students. And part of the reason is that Greg has made our special programs really shine.

He also has brought new luster to our historic campus. Because of Greg's terrific sense of style, the main campus, which was already beautiful, is now even more attractive. From the placement of Adirondack chairs on the green, to the creation of the pedestrian walkway, to the construction of a new parking garage and visitor's entrance near the Alumni Building, to the renovation of Linderman Library, the campus has been transformed and renewed while still maintaining its original aura.

And then there's the opening of Campus Square, the residential and retail complex built on the site of the vast parking lot that once served as a moat separating Lehigh from the South Side. Campus Square is not only a great thing for Lehigh, it's a great thing for the city. It's helped to meld the Lehigh community--students, faculty, and staff--and the South Side community, making both more vital. Greg has been the leader on that front as well.

From a personal standpoint, I've enjoyed working with Greg immensely on issues important to Lehigh. I think he is incredibly insightful, bright, and able to keep sight of the big picture even while focusing on the details. He's also a lot of fun to be around. We've talked at length on a variety of issues, and I have consistently found him to be a terrific conversationalist, someone who is not only thoughtful and organized, but who has a delightful sense of humor.

Looking back, I view the past eight years as a period of tremendous progress for Lehigh, an era that has seen the university move ever upward in a transformative and exciting way. He demanded the best from people, and inspired them to settle for nothing less. I'm confident that his presidency will be remembered for lifting Lehigh to even greater heights.

Ronald J. Ulrich '66 is chairman emeritus of the Lehigh University board of trustees and campaign chair of Shine Forever: The Campaign for Lehigh, the university's $500 million fundraising effort. He is chairman and chief investment officer of Equinox Capital Management, LLC, which he founded following 15 years with Morgan Stanley.

Next: Insisting on excellence

Lehigh Alumni Bulletin
Spring 2006

Posted on Monday, July 03, 2006

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