Judy Marks ’84 ’13P to Lehigh’s Class of 2022: This is the Pursuit of Lifelong Transformation

The CEO of Otis Worldwide Corporation delivers keynote remarks at Lehigh's 154th Commencement.

Story by

Carina Sitkus

Photography by

Christa Neu

Videography by

Alan Sylvestre Media

Judy Marks ’84 ’13P, the chair, CEO and president of Otis Worldwide Corporation, and a Lehigh alumna—delivered the keynote remarks at Lehigh’s Commencement Monday for the approximately 1,100 graduates of the Class of 2022, sharing lessons learned since her own graduation to help serve graduates in their “pursuit of lifelong transformation.”

“With the education you’ve received and the opportunities it will afford you, I am certain you will continue to transform yourselves—and in doing so—transform society as a whole over the coming decades,” Marks said.

The undergraduate Commencement followed Sunday’s graduate Commencement and Doctoral Hooding Ceremony

Marks spoke about the importance of honoring the generations who came before, sponsoring those who come after, and delivering for the generations who are here today. Marks noted her daughter, Sasha, in attendance, also an alumna, a member of the class of 2013. 

Judy Marks

Commencement Speaker July Marks '84 '13P

Marks, whose graduation was held in Stabler Arena before Goodman Stadium was built, said: “Like you, I was full of hopes and dreams—and also a healthy dose of fear and anxiety. You each will embark on your own unique journeys that will be full of twists and turns … As I think back on my days at Lehigh, I am tremendously grateful for the education I received—an education that taught me how to think critically and solve problems. It was on this campus where the seeds of my leadership style were planted and where the doors of limitless opportunity opened up.”

Noting a series of lessons she learned over her decades in executive leadership, Marks spoke about the importance of becoming a lifelong learner; admitting what you don’t know; being agile and solving unanticipated problems; building a network and being collaborative; recognizing that impatience can be healthy, if recognized and mastered; trusting your instincts; taking risks; and being accountable. 

Marks acknowledged the graduates’ firsthand experience adapting to the pandemic as college students, noting the importance of accepting change and being agile to solve unanticipated problems. 

Lehigh graduation

Families cheer for their favorite Lehigh graduates.

“When you recognize and accept that change will be a consistent drumbeat in the soundtrack of your life, you develop a sense of resiliency as you become more and more comfortable with ambiguity,” she said. “...While you were adapting to the impacts to your education delivery during the pandemic, I was faced with the challenge of taking our company independent as a publicly-traded company while providing an essential service every day around the world to keep the world moving in hospitals, in residences and in transit. There was no playbook or precedent to follow or even any former CEOs to ask how they dealt with this previously. I had to rely on my ability to embrace change, deal with the ambiguity of a constantly changing situation, and lead and make decisions rapidly to the best of my ability in the best interests of all stakeholders.”

Marks relayed her faith, hope and pride in this year’s graduating class, calling Lehigh’s graduates the most critical solution to the world’s challenges: “As I stand before you here today, I realize that my generation graduated college and faced the world with opportunity; opportunity in growing economies, in rising standards of living, in healthcare advances and in emerging technology. My generation is leaving your generation more problems to solve. But a world without problems and challenge is ultimately a world without opportunity. 

“You have been trained, each of you, as great and gifted problem solvers. This world needs your work, your leadership, your ingenuity, your innovation, and your teamwork, more than any generation before you. Embrace, pursue, and lead transformations, and never sacrifice your ethics and values. They are foundational to who you are. 

“You and your peers are likely to be the most important graduates because, in you collectively, are solutions for our world. You will work on climate change, on developmental economics, on efficient and safe cities, in healthcare solutions, and in ensuring global trade still leads to global peace. You are the solution.” 

A SENSE OF COMMUNITY  

Kevin L. Clayton ’84 ’13P, chairman of the Board of Trustees, officially opened the ceremony and introduced Provost Nathan N. Urban, who greeted the graduates and guests, including the Class of 1972, who will be celebrating their 50th reunion

Matthew J. Gunton ’22

Matthew J. Gunton ’22

Urban introduced Matthew J. Gunton ’22, a computer science and business major, who delivered the undergraduate student remarks. Gunton reflected on “the 1,523 days” between when the class of 2022 was selected as Lehigh’s newest class leading up to Commencement.

“So how do we properly celebrate our time together? I don’t know. But as I thought more about why I said yes to Lehigh all those days ago, I realized that everything I wanted to do here, I could not have accomplished alone,” Gunton said. “Through extended office hours, trips to Lower Court on Chicken Finger Fridays, or just their belief that we could do great things, the people around us helped us through our time here—some without even realizing it. In that sense, we cannot celebrate our 1,523 days at Lehigh without also celebrating those who stood by us all that time.”

Gunton asked for attendees to stand in honor of all those who supported the Lehigh graduates in their journeys.  

“Lehigh, thank you so much for bringing together all of these amazing people,” he said. “1,523 days sure goes by fast with great company. Thank you.”

In his first Commencement address as Lehigh’s president, Helble, an alumnus, spoke about the sense of community that was central to his experience as a Lehigh student, “the sense of community that I believe still defines the Lehigh of today,” he said.

Heble noted: “These days unfortunately the world too often reminds us of the fragility of community. From a global pandemic keeping families and friends apart to unprovoked wars of aggression to recent tragedies in Buffalo and Orange County and far, far too many other places—tragedies that remind us that not everyone has the luxury of shopping, worshipping, walking, [or] simply being without worrying that that sense of community might be shattered. Yet here, on our campus, I have seen such beauty in community.”

Helble joked that he recently “photobombed” several groups of students gathering in small groups to take Commencement photos.

“But graduates, what struck me in each of those moments was your attentiveness to one another, your being in the moment, your looking one another in the eye, your sharing in that sense of community we call Lehigh.”

He spoke of the many moments we find ourselves distracted in everyday life such as while watching a video, taking a call, shopping, or participating in a meeting, and how those distractions impact our ability to be present in the moment.

“So my parting words to you today as an academic, as a professor, and as your president, are not about the work you have done here. They're not about your academic accomplishments, which are great. They are not about the world you will encounter, the challenges you will face, the work you will do, or the impact I know you will have,” he said.

“My parting words are about asking you, every once in a while, to pause. Just pause. For five minutes, or five hours, or maybe even five days. To step away from your devices, ever so briefly, and be present in the moment, in the ways that you have been these past few weeks when I have seen you walking across campus together or standing arm-in-arm outside the UC, outside Linderman, or Alumni Memorial celebrating with one another, gathering for photographs. Simply being here, together, as part of this great Lehigh community. Pause. Don’t let this simply be a relic of your last few weeks at Lehigh.  Try to make it a regular part of your lives. I promise they will be richer because of it.

“Congratulations, graduates—Lehigh is so proud of what you have endured these past four years and what you have done.”

Commencement day weather began with a crisp morning and was warm and sunny…There were 1,092 undergraduates in the Class of 2022…86 graduates received interdisciplinary bachelor’s degrees…They hailed from 41 states and 42 countries outside the U.S.… Undergraduates majored in 62 different disciplines … The ceremony began with an invocation from Rabbi Steven P. Nathan, endowed director of Jewish Student Life and Associate Chaplain, and was followed by the national anthem, sung by Joshua I. Venick ’22. … Matthew J. Gunton ’22 delivered the undergraduate remarks …. The ceremony officially concluded with the ringing of the bell by representatives of the classes of 1972 and 2022 ... The benediction was offered by Rabbi Nathan … The alma mater was led by Heather R. Keyser ’22…. The Allentown Band, under the direction of conductor Ronald H. Demkee, delivered its 39th consecutive performance at Lehigh’s Commencement ceremony. It is America's oldest civilian concert band, with its first documented performance on July 4, 1828.

Lehigh graduates
Story by

Carina Sitkus

Photography by

Christa Neu

Videography by

Alan Sylvestre Media

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