The Campaign for Lehigh will launch with a performance by Halsey on the UC Front Lawn Oct. 25. The five-year fundraising campaign aims to increase engagement with students and the university's 80,000 alumni. (Kate Morrell/B&W Staff)

Campaign launch to celebrate Founder’s Day

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The Campaign for Lehigh will kick off on the UC Front Lawn on Oct. 25 and serve as a component of this year’s Founder’s Day celebration. 

Deirdre Kwiatek, the director of the campaign, said though Founder’s Day remains an important tradition for celebrating Lehigh, the campaign will provide the opportunity to recognize alumni, leadership and students. It is an initiative for fundraising for the institution, but also for philanthropy and future projects.

Elements of the Founder’s Day ceremony will be incorporated into the campaign launch program. President John Simon said the purpose of Founder’s Day has changed throughout the years, but it will continue to recognize leadership of all levels, from student leaders to new deans.

“We’re kind of creating a festive-style atmosphere for students to come out and connect to one another within the community to see each other and look at the power of the Lehigh community just here among our campus,” Kwiatek said.

Kwiatek said alumni are invited, but the kick-off event is intended for students, faculty and the on-campus community to come together in a powerful way.

Simon said the original Founder’s Day event did not have high attendance from students.

“(Students) are part of this community and family…the event should be for (students),” Simon said. “The evening’s entertainment was chosen in discussion with University Productions. In some ways it’s almost two events encapsulated in one.”

Joseph Buck, the vice president of development and alumni Relations, said the office and students from UP collaboratively decided on an entertainer who students would appreciate and come to see. They were able to narrow down the list of possible artists to Grammy Award-nominated Halsey, who they felt was relatable and appropriate for the audience.

Kwiatek said the winning contestants from Lehigh Idol — Paint House, Burn it Down and Rhythm Method — were sought out to perform at the campaign as a way to get different groups involved.

“This is a way to get students to be literally part of the program, and more than just part of the program, but creating excitement around it and showcase the Lehigh talent in an unexpected way,” Kwiatek said.

Another goal of the campaign is to increase engagement not only with students, but also with Lehigh’s network of 80,000 alumni.

With such a large concentration of alumni in New York and the West coast, campaign launches will also be held in Manhattan and San Francisco on Oct. 26 and 27, respectively. Kwiatek said the launch will start on campus —specifically, on the UC front lawn —  because it is the beating heart of Lehigh.

The event in New York will be held on the Intrepid, a former military ship that now serves as a part of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. West Coast alumni will celebrate the campaign launch at the Legion of Honor, a part of the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco.

The launch at Lehigh is tailored specifically to students, Kwiatek said, but the event in New York will be more business-oriented because of the greater alumni presence.

“We really wanted to make sure that everybody has a place because that’s what we believe the overarching message of the campaign is,” Kwiatek said. “Lehigh is everybody, and the power of Lehigh is when all of these Lehigh people come together.”

Simon said the timing of the five-year fundraising campaign was chosen based on the growth of the institution and its goals. He said after a few years of increase experiential learning, global initiatives and open-ended group learning, there is now a reason to launch. 

Buck said he prepared the public phase of the campaign. The campaign plans have been the focus of his office for over a year, and the launch itself has been in the works for about six months.

“From the launch events, I hope that people in our community will feel energized and excited and want to learn more about what the plans are for the future and appreciate something exciting (that) is happening at Lehigh,” Buck said.

With all that Lehigh has to offer, Buck hopes the institution can work with donors to make improvements and engage differently. He said throughout the five years of the campaign effort, there will be a variety of events and activities that highlight faculty, programs and Lehigh’s colleges. 

“I think Founder’s Day is a great symbolic day to launch a campaign, especially since a lot of the theme of the campaign is really taking what you learn and how you learn it and putting it into practice, which is sort of the ethos that lays a set for the university,” Simon said.

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