Rendering of Lehigh’s College of Health. On Sept. 29, President John Simon announced a $5 million gift from Ellen and Vincent Forlenza to fund a chair for the College of Health. (Courtesy of Lehigh University)

College of Health receives $5 million to endow a chair


Ellen and Vincent Forlenza

President John Simon announced on Sept. 29 a $5 million gift from Ellen and Vincent Forlenza, ‘75, to fund a chair for the College of Health.

As a member of former Provost Pat Farrell’s taskforce, Vincent Forlenza helped Lehigh discuss and create the plans for the College of Health. The Forlenzas’ involvement in the college impacted their passion in health care and became the deciding factor in gifting the college with an endowed chair, Vincent Forlenza said.

“Ultimately, I thought that this gift was something I wanted to give because it reflects my career, and the things my wife and I are passionate about,” he said.

 Vincent Forlenza has worked in health care for the past 40 years. Since January 2020, he has served as the executive chairman of the board of directors at Becton, Dickinson and Company, a global medical technology company. Previously, Vincent Forlenza served as the company’s chief executive officer and chairman. Vincent Forlenza is the chairman of Valley Health System in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and previously served as the chairman of Advamed, the medical device trade association. 

 The endowed chair should not only be a leader and an integrator, but also someone who is thinking about health care broadly and has a vision of where health care can go, Vincent Forlenza said. 

He hopes his donation will move the College of Health forward to become a world-class intuition and become one of the many things that attracts students to Lehigh.

 “The College of Health is a really nice step for Lehigh because it adds another track to Lehigh’s integrated approach of learning,” Vincent Forlenza said. “It will provide students with the ability to learn in a very integrated way which ultimately, I see crucial in the development of leadership skills in our world today.”

The Forlenzas gift to the college will set it on the path to become a one of a kind program and college, said Whitney Witt, dean of the College of Health. 

“This gift will allow us to recruit a leader and create an intellectual home for both faculty and students to develop not only new applications like artificial intelligence and machine learning, but it will also allow us to think about health innovation and technology as they relate to policy,” Witt said.

 Lehigh is the only university in the world that has an undergraduate program that focuses on population health with an emphasis on health innovation and technology, Witt said.  

She said she is looking to the chair to recruit experts to the college from both the private and public sectors.

“With this chair, we are hoping to find someone with a vision of health innovation and technology in many different domains, and a long-term vision of where the College of Health is heading in this growing field,” Witt said. 

The chair should be someone who is a motivated leader with strong collaboration skills and proficient in building partnerships at all levels, said Fathima Wakeel, associate professor in the College of Health.

“As someone who is integral to developing the curricula, research infrastructure, and experiential learning resources for the health innovation and technology program, which is a flagship program for the College of Health, this individual should ideally have a clear vision for the program and have expertise and experiences in building local, regional, national and global partnerships for research, service, and experiential learning opportunities,” Wakeel said.

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  1. Something seems off here. $5 million for a chair? With classrooms, labs, and study spaces, I have to imagine there will be hundreds of chairs in the new building. I just looked up prices on chairs with the little fold-out desk, and while a little more expensive than regular chairs, they were nowhere near $5 million.

    I wonder how Lehigh will raise the money for the other chairs. At that price, we should expect a hefty bump in tuition and donation solicitations. I suspect that the Forlenzas have either been scammed or extorted. Someone is skimming off the top here, and I doubt much of that money will be used for campus or administrative improvement. Considering Lehigh just lost $62 million, skimming $5 million of a donation is a good start to get that back. Just another dozen chairs and we’ll be set. Unless of course Lehigh is paying a third party $5 million for the chair, in which case it is par for the course of Lehigh’s financial irresponsibility.

    Due to Covid interrupting our Thanksgiving plans (thanks to Orange Man), I have several unused folding chairs which I will be donating to the new Health building. Just trying to do my part.

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