“Joe has elevated Lehigh’s philanthropic impact to unprecedented levels, building a legacy of growth, engagement and innovation,” said President Joseph J. Helble ’82. “With his capable leadership, Lehigh was able to navigate the challenges of advancing a comprehensive campaign during a pandemic, and he provided thoughtful leadership during a presidential transition—always working toward ensuring Lehigh’s long-term success. From historical fundraising achievements to transformative initiatives, his contributions have positively shaped Lehigh’s trajectory and future.”
With Buck’s leadership, Lehigh’s fundraising initiatives saw a notable 25 percent increase in contributions for fiscal year 2018 through 2022 compared to the previous five years, and an increase in principal gifts by 20 percent, garnering a university record in 2021.
Among the many milestones achieved under Buck’s guidance was the development of the strategy for GO: The Campaign for Lehigh, the university's first $1B plus comprehensive campaign in its history. The campaign launched publicly in 2018 with a series of memorable events on campus, as well as in New York City and San Francisco, that fostered connections, bolstered impactful support, and provided vital resources to advance education, research, and community impact. During his time, the Business Innovation Building fundraising project achieved the most money raised for any capital project at Lehigh.
Buck's influence extended beyond fundraising, as exemplified by the creation of "Soaring Together." This initiative, celebrating 50 years of full-time undergraduate co-education, demonstrated Buck's commitment to engaging alumni and fostering a sense of unity and pride within the Lehigh community. He also oversaw the establishment of programs such as Lehigh's first-ever giving day in 2018 and the introduction of the Distinguished Alumni Awards.
“Joe has been a key partner in many aspects of our efforts to advance Lehigh through support of students and faculty,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Nathan Urban. “In particular, his work to create the Soaring Together campaign to celebrate 50 years of undergraduate women at Lehigh and his efforts to honor outstanding Lehigh alumni through the alumni awards program speak to the thoughtful approach that he has brought to everything that he does to connect and support the Lehigh community.”
Additionally, Buck's visionary thinking led to the successful integration of the Career Center for Professional Development (CCPD) into external-facing efforts, further enhancing Lehigh's engagement with its broader community.
Under Buck's guidance, a Corporation and Foundations team was established, further diversifying and strengthening the university's funding base. Naming gifts secured by Buck for three new residential houses stand as a testament to the effective partnerships he was able to cultivate.
Furthermore, Buck played a pivotal role in optimizing the effectiveness and impact of the Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) organization.
“One of Joe’s beliefs is that you should ‘leave a place better than you found it,’” said Deirdre Kwiatek, Associate Vice President, Development Communications and Donor Relations and Campaign Director. “It was a reminder to himself and to us that in everything we do, we should act in the very best and long-term interests of this special university. In his time at Lehigh, he has done exactly that: built a collaborative team and a sustainable organization achieving new levels of alumni engagement and philanthropy. We will miss his clarity of purpose, inimitable leadership, joy for the work, and care for our people. And we will ‘keep everlastingly at it,’ as he would say, to continue making Lehigh ever better.”
Bill Bole, Associate Vice President for Development & Alumni Relations, said: “Joe has always asked that we work in such a way, for however long we are here, to leave Lehigh better than we found it. Yes, his legacy will be seen in the buildings and programs that he helped to create, but also—and more powerfully—in the students, faculty, and staff whose personal and professional lives have been supported and enriched through philanthropic investment and volunteer engagement. His strength, ambition, and focus as a leader are matched equally by his sense of humanity and caring about his team, his colleagues, and the institutions he serves.”
Buck's impactful contributions extended into the launch and hosting of the "GO Getters" podcast, a platform for engaging discussions and insights from influential voices. He provided critical partnership to the launch of Compelling Perspectives, a new program at Lehigh that aims to create a forum for fostering respectful discourse and engaging across differing perspectives on issues of critical and societal importance.
Buck said he was grateful for the support of Lehigh’s leadership, his team, and the entire Lehigh community.
“I am proud of our committed team and the way we have enhanced our engagement with alumni philanthropically—by helping our alumni bring their big ideas to reality and by connecting them to a larger strategy and vision that ultimately shapes Lehigh’s future,” said Buck. “Lehigh is in a strong position, and our team is set up for success to support the comprehensive work of bringing the strategic plan to fruition over the next decade. I am grateful to both President Helble and [former] President John Simon for the opportunity to lead the DAR division. And I am grateful to the Lehigh community; I take with me lasting memories of this community and my experiences here.”
Before joining the team at Lehigh in July of 2016, Buck served as the associate dean of advancement at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, leading a successful $850 million fundraising campaign, and also served in key development roles at three different universities.
Buck holds a bachelor’s in marketing and a master’s of education from St. Joseph’s University and spent a year early in his career teaching English in China.