Soaring Together panelists

Soaring Together panelists (from left) Jackie Krasas ’87, Cathy Engelbert ’86 ’23P, Sandra Denton ’83, and Renee Washington ’16G.

Behind the Scenes

Lehigh celebrates distinguished alumni and 50 years of coeducation

Photography by

John Kish IV


I’m writing this the Friday before our Leadership Recognition Dinner, thinking about all the thought and preparation that went into the production of our annual event (see page 12), and thought you’d be interested in a “behind-the-scenes” look at how we selected the Distinguished Alumni Awards and the Soaring Together panelists.

Distinguished Alumni Awards: For the awards, we solicit nominations from all alumni, faculty and staff in late winter. From there we mash up the narrative information you provide with database information including the nominee’s class year, college, professional information, region, previous awards received, volunteer leadership records, etc. We then ask a selection committee of several volunteer leaders and staff to rank their top candidates.

Lehigh’s president notifies the finalists himself. Once they accept, the Development and Alumni Relations team jumps into action, working with the recipients to gather biographical information, produce the videos, invite their guests to the celebration, make hotel reservations, and many other details to make their stories come alive. This year, only the camera crew was on site to film the videos: Everyone else from the production team, including Lehigh staff, tuned in via Zoom. I was afraid the videos wouldn’t turn out as well as the previous ones, when we could be in the room and interact with the alumni as they were being interviewed, but that fear was 
unfounded. The videos are fantastic!

To be honest, selecting the recipients is the most challenging piece of the whole process. Lehigh has so many phenomenal and deserving alumni in all the categories, yet we have to whittle it down to just six! 

Working with the recipients is the most awe-inspiring and exciting part of my job. To a person they are nice, fiercely dedicated to the employees or constituents they serve, humble and generous. It’s fascinating to hear their stories about how Lehigh prepared them for the lives they’re living. Some credit specific faculty or staff, others talk about the challenges they overcame as students that made them stronger and more resilient. They all have that Lehigh ethos of grit, determination and intelligence. They really are as amazing as they appear on screen!

Soaring Together Panel: Designing a dynamic panel is always a challenge. Designing a panel that could hold its own during an evening that included honoring the Leadership Plaza inductees and the Distinguished Alumni Awards  recipients, and following the inauguration of our alumnus President—that was a tall order. 

First, we featured just three speakers and a moderator, so each person had ample time. Second, we recruited women with a wide variety of experiences and expertise. Third, the right moderator was critical. She had to have a stage presence herself, but also the ability to help her panelists shine. Fourth, they all had to be available to attend in person! Somehow the stars aligned and the discussion was one of the most illuminating and inspiring I’ve seen.

We worked for months on bringing this all together, and at 9:54 p.m. on Saturday as I finally started driving home from the incredible event, I was already looking forward to doing it all over again next year!


Jennifer Cunningham
Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations

Photography by

John Kish IV


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