Lehigh’s annual Founder’s Day celebration marked an important milestone in the school’s ongoing sesquicentennial year with the installation of the university’s 14th president, John Simon.
Faculty, staff, students and alumni watched the ceremony in both Packer Memorial Church and through a simulcast viewing party in Grace Hall for those who could not acquire tickets for the sold-out chapel venue.
After being installed as president, President Simon delivered his inaugural address, speaking about the founding vision of Asa Packer and Lehigh’s pursuit of excellence.
“We must commit to excellence and situate Lehigh to excel as a research university that prepares students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century,” Simon said.
Following along this mission, Simon announced that the board of trustees has committed $250 million dollars of institutional resources in the areas of teaching, learning, research and student life. Simon outlined goals in four main areas of financial aid, university infrastructure, innovative education and globalization.
Janet Norwood, the senior director of advancement communications, said this Founder’s Day was special due to the additional sesquicentennial programming, including the installation. The university has been planning the events for the past year and special events were added to the program to expand the celebration.
Individuals in Grace Hall presented Simon with symbolic gifts, and this presentation was shown on a screen at the church.
Lori McClaind, the assistant dean of academic transitions, led the presentation of gifts from Grace Hall. The presenters were Thomas Healy Jr., ’85, Mary Jo McNulty, Professor Scott Gordon and Michael Garzillo, ’16.
Each gift represented a part of the university seal. One of the gifts included a Lehigh jersey with Simon’s name emblazoned on the back, along with the No. 14.
During the ceremony, the Lehigh choir and professional musicians united to debut the musical piece “Darest Thou Now, O Soul.” The piece was composed by Steven Sametz, a music professor, and was commissioned by Lehigh to commemorate the sesquicentennial year along with the installation of President Simon.
During the performance, members of the audience could open an app to control a light fixture which hung on the ceiling of the church. The colors of the lights and the sounds of the choir changed with input from the audience.
Stacy Shillinger, senior director of advancement and university events, said the fixture came from a Mountaintop project.
“The students’ aim was to make the piece interactive with the audience and choir through the use of a webpage and a large light sculpture hung from the ceiling of the church,” Shillinger wrote in an email.
The ceremony celebrated the past, present and future of Lehigh, and Simon stressed the importance of the rich history and traditions of the university during his speech.
“We do not remember days, we remember moments,” Simon said. “Let us all remember this moment as one filled with possibility. A Lehigh moment.”