3.24.20: Our Community - A Message from President Simon

A year of shared responsibility--President Simon reflects on the grit and determination of the Lehigh community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Dear Members of the Lehigh Community and Lehigh Families,

Back in August—it now feels like a lifetime ago—I shared with our first-year class that our community had declared this “the year of shared responsibility” at Lehigh, meaning all of us have ownership in making our university the place we want it to be. Such responsibility also suggests that we are truly all in this together.  

At the time, I had no way of knowing then what a test this year would bring, as the crucial responsibility of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 rests with all of us. I had no way of knowing how true it would become that we are all in this together. Together, the Lehigh community has responded admirably, with creativity, determination, grit and resilience. I am not surprised. I am proud.

Fulfilling our shared responsibility does not come without its challenges. Now we find ourselves in our second week holding courses remotely, an unprecedented moment in our institution’s history. For many of you, the transition to remote learning brought significant emotional uncertainty and stress as you balanced academic and work obligations with preparations such as traveling and taking care of your families. Many students moved out of their residences sooner than expected.  I’d like to thank and commend parents and families for your cooperation and flexibility during this difficult time.

Faculty and staff vacated their workspaces, and almost all are now working from home. It is an eerie feeling to walk around the Packer, Mountaintop and Goodman Campuses and think about what should be happening and knowing that students, faculty and staff will not return for some time.

And yet, this is also a time in which the Lehigh community has collectively adapted and triumphed. I am proud of our students, faculty and staff who are working together to keep teaching, learning and fulfilling our educational mission.

Though most are learning, teaching and working remotely, there are members of our community who are required to be present on campus to enable us to fulfill our mission. Technology staff are maintaining our technology infrastructure. Student Affairs, Dining Service and cleaning staff are working with those of our students who must remain in residence halls. Our police force is working, facilities personnel are maintaining critical functions, and these are just some examples. We are, of course, doing everything possible to make these workspaces and living spaces as safe as possible.

As I said in my Convocation address, quoting H, “Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” In the coming weeks, we will be soliciting feedback from our students, faculty and staff about how this work is going, as we strive to fulfill our shared responsibility to continue fostering an environment that realizes the high standard of a Lehigh education. At the same time, we share in the responsibility to do our part to mitigate a public health crisis. Every decision we have made and will continue to make must take into account these two priorities.

We will continue to communicate important information in support of our community’s health and well-being. As you know, several of our community members have tested positive for COVID-19, an important reminder that we cannot stop being vigilant in practicing social distancing and good health behaviors to prevent the spread of the virus. This is important first and foremost.

Please also take a moment during this busy and challenging time to reflect on what we have accomplished in the past few weeks and the ways in which we continue to support one another. This is a time that will forever shape us as individuals and as an institution. Rising to these challenges demonstrates who we are as Mountain Hawks, and albeit difficult in the moment, provides the opportunity for us to be our best, and to bring out the best in each other. I am incredibly humbled by, and thankful for, your resolve and determination. Keep up the good work, as I know you will. And remember that we are all in this together.


John D. Simon ’19P