Joseph J. Helble will assume the role of Lehigh's 15th president on Aug. 16, 2021. The Lehigh community is looking forward to welcoming him. (Courtesy of Lehigh University)

BREAKING: Joseph J. Helble announced as Lehigh University’s 15th president


In an April 26 email to the Lehigh community, Kevin Clayton, chair of the Board of Trustees, announced that Joseph J. Helble, ‘82 will be serving as the next president of Lehigh University, following President John Simon’s departure. 

Helble currently serves as the provost for Dartmouth College and will assume the role at Lehigh on August 16. 

According to Helble’s LinkedIn page, he studied chemical engineering at Lehigh from 1978-1982 before earning a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987. 

According to the email, Helble was selected via a global search process by the Presidential Search Committee. 

“The committee’s charge was to identify the best possible person to lead the university,” Clayton said in the email. “Joe is that person. His impressive track record as an accomplished and forward-thinking educator made him stand out in a diverse pool of truly outstanding candidates. He is a superb choice to drive our university forward.”

Although the Board of Trustees voted in May 2019 to extend Simon’s contract through 2025, Simon announced his resignation in September 2020, which will be effective beginning June 30, 2021. 

Provost Nathan Urban will serve as Lehigh’s interim president between Simon’s departure and Helble’s arrival on August 16. 

President Simon is the 14th president of Lehigh. In his time as president, Simon oversaw Lehigh’s partnership with Nasdaq, the establishment of the university’s Western Regional Office, and the beginning of the Path to Prominence initiative. 

During Simon’s tenure, Lehigh also joined the American Talent Initiative to increase the number of talented low- and moderate-income students attending American institutions with high graduation rates. 

Furthermore, Simon led GO: The Campaign for Lehigh, a $1 billion fundraising campaign which would help finance the university’s expansion projects. 

As we welcome Joe (Helble), I want to thank and acknowledge President John Simon for his strong leadership over the past six years,” Clayton said in the email. “John’s accomplishments during his time as president will leave a lasting legacy.”

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  1. Amy Charles '89 on

    A kid from Dartmouth just got in touch with me last week trying to figure out what to do, because she got assaulted, the college’s Title IX office totally stiffarmed her, and her parents want to make her go back. She was desperately looking for a way to see a bright side in this. We all know Dartmouth’s rapey rep, but the last time I’d checked in was ages ago.

    I was horrified, in 16-dimensional italics, at what I found going on there. With faculty. Faculty abuse of students. Recently. The story makes that “Picture a Scientist” doc look like Mary Poppins. You know who’s in charge of faculty, in a university? The provost.

    An enormous number of women had to bring a class-action suit to make something happen. Complaints had been coming in about these guys for years. Action taken: exactly. The suit ended in a $14M settlement. And that’s just that case. Their sexual assault scene is horrific. There’s not much in the way of help for the women, and they’re in the middle of nowhere.

    When I saw this guy’s photo, I thought, great, more of the same. But it’s not more of the same. It’s worse. File those reports early and often, and be loud, loud, loud when abuse happens on campus.

    • Enough Already on


      Your remarks are a cheap shot at Helble. He became provost at Dartmouth in October 2018.

      The sordid seamy stuff occurred BEFORE he was provost. The provost when much of this occurred was a liberal WOMAN, – Carolyn Dever. She is an English professor whose specialties are Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

      Where was Dever when this was occurring?

      • Amy Charles '89 on

        A+ whataboutery. Dever should be held personally responsible for her failures, and when Dever becomes Lehigh’s president, I will happily talk about them here.

        Helble was professor and dean of the engineering college for nearly the entire time those complaints were coming in, high enough up in admin for his speaking up loudly, clearly, and publicly about sexual abuse at Dartmouth to have had an important effect, had he chosen to do so. The complaint’s extraordinary: . I find it exceptionally difficult to believe that at a small, isolated school like Dartmouth, with such a parade of complaints going on for so long about this department, and faculty aware of each other in a smalltown way, that the harassment and abuse at PBS were not common knowledge among faculty, even across schools.

        You’d think Dartmouth might’ve considered cleaning up the act after that story broke nationally, and after the settlement, but in 2020, when Helble was provost, there they were in the news again, when a grad student went on a hunger strike to force the Title IX office to take her sexual harassment complaint seriously and investigate it properly. (Also while Helble was in that job, Dartmouth recruited faculty to the Dept of Psychological and Brain Sciences to replace the three abusive men they’d allowed to retire, and somehow just couldn’t find very many women at all for their shortlist. I mean I get it, it’s hard to recruit to an Ivy, people aren’t interested.)

        In the end, people make active, chronic decisions to be part of the leadership of institutions that operate this way. They’re not easy jobs and people re-evaluate all the time: why am I doing this? Should I leave? Should I say something and then leave? Afaics, the answer for Helble, for 15 years, was “I should stay and keep my mouth shut.” On he went, good soldier. A disappointing thing to see in a AAAS fellow. So: what else will he tolerate in the new place where he’s making his career?

        I encourage you to take a look at that complaint to get a sense of what was tolerated at Dartmouth by quiet administrators. Department chairs. Deans. Provosts. Presidents. I have never seen a university sexual-harassment complaint like that one. These things were tolerated for many years, and then quietly tolerated again.

        When a man who is willing to be part of leadership that tolerates such things and muffles complaints about them is led in and introduced by a very wealthy man who made his name in something called vulture capital, I think — well, among other things, I think I’m relieved my kid ain’t going to Lehigh. And I think, my, Kevin’s found a tractable fellow. But I’m also waiting now to see what Helble will let pass quietly at Lehigh.

  2. Bruce Haines ‘67 on

    Congrats to trustees for choosing a Lehigh Engineer alum to hopefully rebuild the reputation of our University.

    We have dropped nearly 20 spots on US News rankings since we gave away our brand as the Lehigh Engineers to try to emulate the Eastern Liberal arts schools.

    Time to refocus efforts on Lehigh historic strengths in Engineering & Business creating leaders on Wall Street & in corporate board rooms.

    • Asa's Ghost on

      Hear Hear. For an institution that has lost it way over the past few years going back to its roots and recruiting an alumnus with top 20 experience makes a lot of sense. Kudos to the Search Committee and the Board.

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