By the time John D. Simon was named Lehigh’s 14th president on Oct. 17, 2014, he had come to recognize a few key strengths about the university he would soon lead.
Simon viewed Lehigh as an institution respected nationwide for its excellence in academics and research, and an innovator and leader, in particular, in the world of interdisciplinary education. He recognized the university’s longtime success in delivering an outstanding residential experience for its students, and its willingness—via programs such as the then-newly launched Mountaintop program—to explore new ways of educating the next generation of innovators and leaders. Even before he officially stepped on campus for the first time as president, he learned just how much people in the Lehigh community love their university.
But as impressed as he was with Lehigh, Simon all those years ago also knew this: the possibilities for this proud institution were almost limitless.
Over the past six years, he’s been proven correct.
Simon’s tenure as president, which will come to a close this summer, will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most impactful in Lehigh’s history. And it will be remembered as such specifically because of his success in rallying the university leadership and its students, faculty, staff and alumni to support a vision for a more vibrant, global and dynamic Lehigh.
On the occasion of his installment, the centerpiece of the university’s 2015 Founder’s Day celebration, Simon announced the Board of Trustees would invest $250 million to strengthen Lehigh’s infrastructure and programming in the areas of teaching, learning, research and student life. It was certainly a bold step forward for Lehigh, but as it turned out, it was only the first of many to come. In the years to follow, Simon led several major initiatives, each of which advanced the university in critically important ways.
The successful implementation of the Path to Prominence, the launch of GO: The Campaign for Lehigh, the university’s expanded presence on the West Coast, the opening of the innovative Lehigh College of Health, the university’s growth on the global stage, efforts to make Lehigh a more welcoming and supportive place for people of all backgrounds; all of it speaks to Simon’s tenure at Lehigh as a time of growth and change.
As he prepares to step away from the university this summer, Simon sat down with the Bulletin to reflect on his time as president.
I know it must be difficult to answer a question like this succinctly, but as you sit here today, how would you describe your experience serving as president of Lehigh University?