Alumni, parents and other members of Lehigh’s extended community gathered in New York City on March 30 to attend “Meet the President: NYC.”
Participants had the opportunity to meet President Joseph Helble, ask questions and discuss matters relating to the university.
This event is part of a string of events in the Lehigh Goes Cross Country campaign, in which Helble visits cities across the country to connect with the Lehigh community in his return to his alma mater as president.
The event, which was located at the Tavern on the Green restaurant in Central Park, marks Helble’s eighth city visit in the campaign, following events over the past few months in Palm Beach, Florida; San Francisco, California; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,.
Though Helble leaves Lehigh’s physical campus each time he takes to the road, he said these events have made him feel even closer to the Lehigh community.
“There is such an energy in the room when you get a group of alumni together who share an affection and shared love for the same institution,” Helble said. “Even if everyone’s individual experiences were different, you have that shared bond, shared community, shared education and shared love of being on campus for those four years.”
The March 30 event is the largest campaign event to date, amassing attendance registration of more than 250 people.
Joseph Buck, vice president of development and alumni relations, said the community feedback from these events has been positive.
“People have really enjoyed hearing from President Helble,” Buck said. “I think people have come away from these events feeling energized by his reflections, his understanding of the institution and what he thinks will continue to allow us to be a premier university.”
Buck said each night’s event proceeds as follows: first, the event begins with an introduction from an alumni host, followed by a speech from Helble reflecting on his return to campus as president, followed by a Q&A session and ending with an address from Buck and a cocktail and dessert reception.
Each city visit also includes a #PacethePrez run – a 4-mile morning run in which members of the Lehigh community can get to know the president in an informal setting.
Helble, who ran cross country during his time as a Lehigh student, said he believes these runs help bring a broader group of Lehigh community members into conversations, especially young alumni who are often too busy on weekday evenings to attend other scheduled events.
Helble said the New York City Pace the Prez run on March 31 garnered close to 20 runners who looped Central Park together wearing matching Lehigh pinnies.
Alex Gardner, a Lehigh parent and one of the attending runners, said he felt the previous night’s event was more tailored for alumni attendees, while the morning run was a perfect opportunity for him to get involved in conversations and to get to know Helble.
“It’s a great way to get to meet alumni, and for parents, who have a different connection to the school, to meet the president,” Gardner said. “I think it’s brilliant because there’s always going to be people in each of the big cities who want to do this … Whether it took each attendee an hour because they were walking or a half hour because they were running, there were always people in between to talk to.”
Gardner said that this run also helped him feel more connected to his son, Peter Gardner, ‘22, who is a regular attendee at the 6:30 a.m. Pace the Prez runs on campus each week.
Some attendees, such as Stu Seltzer, ‘87, opted to attend both the night event and morning run.
Seltzer said he was excited to attend the Meet the President event to gather with friends and hear Helble’s address, as well as have the chance to run with him the next morning.
“For one, Central Park is one of the best places around the world to run in,” Seltzer said. “I’m also excited just to get to run with other Lehigh alumni. I know which Lehigh sweatshirt I’m going to be wearing and I imagine the whole crew will be wearing Lehigh apparel. It’s always so fun to see the Lehigh pride broadcast here in New York City.”
A seasoned runner himself, Seltzer remarked on how impressed he was with Helble’s performance.
“President Helble is fast and in great shape,” Seltzer said. “I was running with a bunch of 40-year-olds, 50-year-olds and a few 2019 grads and we couldn’t keep up at all. It actually was very inspiring to run with him and see him in such great shape.”
There are several more Meet the President and Pace the Prez events occurring throughout the rest of the semester, with events in Seattle, Washington; Denver, Colorado; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; and Washington D.C.