John Lee, '90, and fellow Lehigh alumni tailgate at Goodman Stadium. (Photo courtesy of John Lee)

Alumni celebrate Le-Laf by reconnecting with loved ones


On a frigid November day in 1987, John Lee, ‘90, and Jeff Frase, ‘90, celebrated the last meeting of The Rivalry at Taylor Stadium, where Lehigh defeated Lafayette 17-10. 

Since then, the game has been celebrated at Goodman Stadium when Lehigh hosts, where thousands of students gather and alumni return to root for their alma mater. 

Many alumni use the game as a way to reconnect with their friends and share experiences with their children, who sometimes are Lehigh students.

John Lee majored in economics and English, was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and served as co-captain of the rugby club. He now works as an investment banker at Griffin Financial. 

Lee said he enjoys catching up with his daughter, Allison Lee, ‘23, and his former classmates at the tailgates. 

“It’s kind of a big alumni homecoming,” John Lee said. “We would host the tailgate. Usually, my family and another family and then Allison with her friends, and we’d have this whole multi-generational fan base there. That was just a neat feeling.”

John Lee said he loves that his daughter attends Lehigh. Allison Lee is pursuing a degree within the College of Business. 

John Lee said this is a connection between them, as he later pursued a career in business. 

He is able to reconnect with his former rugby teammates every year at the game — he said it is always great to reminisce on their past experiences at Lehigh. 

While in college, John Lee said he attended three of The Rivalry games, visiting Lafayette for one and staying at Lehigh for the other two. Before the games, he and his fellow classmates would tailgate outside the stadium. 

“My first two years were the last two years of the old stadium, which was really just a blast to the past,” John Lee said. “Then Goodman was built and operational my junior and senior years. It was great to then have something that felt state of the art the very next year.”

He said simply attending the football games at the old Taylor Stadium includes his class in a part of history. After the final game of the 1987 football season, students rushed onto the field and dismantled the goal posts, keeping them as a memory of the event. 

The old stadium was located on the corner of Taylor Street and Packer Avenue, where Zoellner Arts Center and Rauch Business Center sit today.

John Lee said attendees crowded the grass surrounding Taylor Stadium before the games, spilling out onto the streets within Lehigh’s campus. Now, he said tailgating at Goodman Stadium is not as convenient for students. 

“The fact that there was a stadium right in the heart of campus certainly allowed accessibility, where everyone wants to be in attendance,” Frase said. 

Whether they won or lost, students at Lehigh celebrated The Rivalry in good spirits. 

Frase played on the football team in 1986 and 1987. He said his grueling schoolwork and strict practice schedule was hard to manage, but he feels as though his time playing on the team was eye-opening. 

Frase said he sees students have become less enthusiastic about supporting the Lehigh athletic community and hopes the Lehigh spirit comes back. 

Since Frase now lives far from Lehigh, he said he has not attended as many Le-Laf games since graduating but stays connected with the program through fundraising. 

He said that playing football at Lehigh was an experience he will never forget.

“(I loved) all that went with being part of that team and collegiate sports and collegiate people and the incredible amount of work that was involved with it,” Frase said. 

Frase said he hopes the school spirit still remains in the students in the name of The Rivalry. 

Now with two daughters attending Lehigh, Frase said he is glad they will have related experiences and is excited to celebrate The Rivalry with them. 

Jill Triani, ‘94, mother of two current Lehigh students, said tailgating is her favorite way to reunite with her college friends years later. Her daughter, Emma, was just 18 months old when she attended her first Le-Laf game. 

Jill Triani and her family at a previous Le-Laf game at Goodman Stadium. (Photo courtesy of Jill Triani)

Triani majored in architecture and got her master’s degree from the University of Michigan. 

She was a member of the wind ensemble and president of the Residence Hall Association. She lived in the McClintic–Marshall House during her first year and in Trembley Park the next three. 

One of Triani’s favorite Le-Laf traditions was the Marching 97’s Eco-flame, as well as a Le-Laf bonfire which no longer occurs. 

Since attending Lehigh, Triani has been to around 25 Le-Laf games — even when she lived nine hours away in Michigan.

She said reuniting with her college friends is what keeps her coming back to The Rivalry meetings. 

“It’s always been the weekend that our friends all come back,” Triani said. “We have a huge group that comes back every year. We still have a big dinner the Friday night before the game. … Sometimes we only see our friends once a year, and this is the weekend we see them.” 

As soon as the parking lot at Goodman Stadium opens, their group festivities begin. 

Triani said that the biggest change she’s noticed over her 25 games is the lack of attendance by students. 

“I mean, I’m shocked that the game is not sold out,” Triani said. “When we were students, and even as young alumni, it was a mad dash to make sure we could get tickets … so the fact that these past couple of years it hasn’t sold out is shocking.”

Triani said the Le-Laf game remains a good opportunity for friends to come together after time apart.

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