A Responsibility to Lead


What is our responsibility as an institution of higher learning?

That’s a question that I spend quite a bit of time thinking about, and I know I’m not alone: At a time of great challenge in the world of higher education, this is something that my colleagues here at Lehigh and my peers at institutions around the world ask ourselves—and ask each other.

Yes, as colleges and universities we exist, essentially, to educate young people. To mold the leaders of tomorrow. To support important and life-changing research. To foster innovation and discovery. To teach, to motivate, to inspire. These are the things that we must do. And, yes, we constantly work to find ways to do them better.

But what else must we do? What standards should we hold ourselves to? What responsibility do we have as institutions to our communities, to our nation, and to our world? What is the role, broadly speaking, we ought to play in our society?

At Lehigh, I believe our answer to that last question is as follows: to lead.

From the moment I first visited South Mountain, I had enormous confidence in the capacity for this great university to make the world a better place, and in the years that have since passed, that confidence has only grown. I truly believe that, here at Lehigh, our capacity to lead—and to enable powerful, positive change the world over—is enormous.

This capacity manifests itself in most everything we do. It is evident of course in our teaching, where we continually challenge ourselves to reimagine the undergraduate experience, and in our research, through which we strive to create new knowledge and fuel innovation.

But it can also be seen in other realms: in our proud and ongoing commitment to the City of Bethlehem, where we invest our resources and our intellectual capital; in our ever-expanding efforts to operate as an environmentally sustainable institution, especially at a time when our leading scientists tell us such efforts are more crucial than ever before; in our ambitions to make Lehigh an even more global university, most recently evidenced by our newly announced partnership with Ashoka University in India; and perhaps most notably, in our core institutional belief that the life-changing education we offer here at Lehigh ought to be available to any young person smart enough and driven enough to be here.

None of these commitments can or will be fulfilled without concerted effort on the part of every member of our community—our students, our faculty and staff, and our proud alumni.

But we make these commitments, and will continue to make still others, because we firmly believe that we at Lehigh have something important to offer the world.

We offer knowledge.

We offer vision.

And yes, together, we offer leadership—leadership in purpose, and leadership in action.

John D. Simon, President

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