The 1984 issue of "The Epitome" yearbook. "The Epitome" is the longest-running Lehigh publication at 147 years of production.(Courtesy of advisor Jessi McMullan ’05)

Epitome: Lehigh’s oldest publication


Lehigh’s annual yearbook “The Epitome,” is in its 147th year of production, making it the longest-running Lehigh publication. 

Jessi McMullan, ‘05, yearbook advisor, said it has changed in many ways over the years. 

Kyra Boston, ‘24, editor in chief of “The Epitome,” said a more recent change to the yearbook’s layout came during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We transitioned to more of a chronological order that a lot of our editors fell in love with, so we just kind of stuck to it,” Boston said. “So now when you open the book, you start with what happened on Day One of school that year.”

Yearbook staff members review photos taken on Memorial Walk. (Courtesy of advisor Jessi McMullan ’05)

She said they always cover move-in day and orientation, before covering Family Weekend, Founders Day and Le-Laf rivalry week. 

Nikki Paladino, ‘24, deputy editor of “The Epitome,” said the yearbook includes a spread on the organizations that host campus events. 

“We’ll have a little blurb there where it tells us about the club and the history of the club and what’s going on at the event, and then we just put that in there with some pictures, as well,” Paladino said. 

In addition to events, Paladino said the yearbook also includes special features, one of which includes a  “day-in-the-life” student perspective.

After chronicling the events of the year and profiling clubs, Greek organizations and sports teams, the yearbook has a section dedicated to senior portraits. 

McMullan said the staff tries to include as many members of the senior undergraduate class as possible, usually ending up with 30 to 40 spreads of portraits.

Since senior portraits are not mandatory and booked by appointment, Boston said there only ends up being around 700 portraits in the yearbook each year, which is approximately half of the graduating class, as a lot of seniors choose not to take portraits.

“The Epitome” yearbook staff constructing this year’s yearbook. (Courtesy of advisor Jessi McMullan ’05)

Although the yearbook is heavily marketed toward seniors, Paladino said “The Epitome” is relatively unknown to the student population, which makes it difficult to get seniors to take their portraits. 

“A lot of people don’t know about our yearbook, so they get the email their senior year and it says, ‘Go take your pictures, buy the yearbook,’ and everyone’s like, ‘Wow, what’s the yearbook?’” Paladino said.

Boston said seniors are emailed at the beginning of the fall semester and asked to sign up for portraits. Photography sessions are then hosted throughout the year in Williams Hall.

While there is no mandated attire, it’s recommended for seniors to dress business casual. 

Alexa Riso, ‘23, sat for a senior portrait earlier this academic year. 

“You just take some headshots like a normal school photo, but then they also have caps and gowns for you to wear, which was actually kind of surreal,” Riso said

She said the photographer takes between 15 and 20 photos, some in business casual, some in cap and gown and some where the student poses holding a Lehigh banner. 

Boston said students are emailed the photos, and they pick the proof they want to be in the book.

While the portraits are only available for graduating seniors, Paladino said seniors who are taking an additional semester or graduating within six months of their class are still eligible for yearbook portraits. 

Older versions of the yearbook included multiple class years. However, current issues only hold enough space to include the graduating class, since Lehigh’s student population has increased.

McMullan said the yearbook has averaged 176 pages over the last couple years, but since campus has resumed full in-person operations following the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s yearbook has 208 pages. 

In addition to senior portraits, the end of the yearbook also includes a six- or seven-page spread on graduation and commencement, extending the yearbook staff’s work into the summer. 

Boston said they fine tune the book throughout the summer before turning it over to McMullan and different Lehigh offices for approval. The final yearbook is normally printed and distributed by mid-September.

Past editions of “The Epitome” are available to view through the yearbook archive, dating back to 1875. They are available to purchase through McMullan. 

Students can order a copy of this year’s yearbook through the Lehigh Epitome website.

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