Ethan Riester, '25, receives the class of 2025 flag at The Rally from Karen Stuckey, '75. Lehigh celebrates 50 years of having female students attend after the university began allowing women to enroll in 1971. (Courtesy of Lehigh University Alumni Relations)

Soaring Together celebrates 50 years of Lehigh women


This academic year marks the 50th anniversary of the first co-educational class at Lehigh, which matriculated in the fall of 1971. To commemorate this milestone, the university has launched Soaring Together, an initiative celebrating the impact and contributions of past, present and future Lehigh women. 

Members of the campus community are invited to join in on university-wide celebrations as well as create their own.

Janet Norwood, senior director of strategic messaging for Development and Alumni Relations, is part of Soaring Together’s project management team. Norwood said the team is inviting all departments, units, student clubs and organizations to join in on the celebration.

“The celebration hinges on the 50th anniversary of this great milestone,” Norwood said. “It really is a celebration of the past, present and future women at Lehigh and looking at their impact on campus and the world.”  

She said there are programs coming out of the music department, Zoellner Arts Center, art galleries and more. Faculty members have also reached out to incorporate the celebration into their classrooms this semester. 

Lindsay Drake, associate director of College Affinity and Faculty Engagement, said she hopes to create more programming for Soaring Together throughout the academic year. 

“As the year goes on, our hope is that there will be more seminars, discussions, and speakers that talk about Soaring Together and women at Lehigh,” Drake said. “We are trying to capture everything that is happening to add it to the events calendar and tell the stories of how people are celebrating.” 

The initiative was formally launched with The Rally on Aug. 21. The celebrations will run throughout the academic year, with events continuing over the next four years to celebrate women at Lehigh, Norwood said.

At The Rally, a co-ed class of alumni was able to adopt the newest class of first-year students for the first time in Lehigh history, as it is tradition for the incoming first-year students to be adopted by the alumni who arrived on campus 50 years prior. 

Karen Stuckey, ‘75, adopted the class and presented the flag at The Rally. 

“Karen was the first woman to be eligible to welcome in a class,” said Jennifer Cunningham, assistant vice president of Alumni Relations. “And she was the perfect person to tap for this.”

When Stuckey was introduced, there was extended applause from the students at The Rally to welcome her. Cunningham said the reaction from the students was “just awesome.”

Not only are the first-year students excited about the 50 year celebration of co-education at Lehigh, but alumni have expressed excitement as well. 

Drake said it has been fun to generate excitement for alumni by getting them involved in the initiatives. 

While the Soaring Together team and alumni have enjoyed looking back at the history of women at Lehigh, they also enjoy hearing from and supporting Lehigh women currently on campus.

“It’s a very exciting time to be talking to our faculty and students about what they are doing today,” said Deirdre Kwiatek, senior director of development and campaign director for Soaring Together. “They aren’t necessarily reflecting back, rather they are showing us what Lehigh women are doing now. Seeing the dynamic nature of Lehigh’s education right now is really exciting.” 

Kwiatek said another one of Soaring Together’s initiatives is to learn how philanthropy can help support Lehigh women. To do so, there will be fundraising efforts this fall to raise funds to support Lehigh women, faculty and students. 


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