Tri-Alpha Inductees

Twenty-five students, faculty, alumni and staff were inducted into the first-generation honor society Alpha Alpha Alpha (Tri-Alpha) in inaugural ceremony. Photo: Jessica Mellon '21

Lehigh Students, Alumni Among Inductees into First-Generation Honor Society

The inaugural ceremony of Tri-Alpha Honor Society was held April 3 on campus.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

In an inaugural ceremony, Lehigh inducted 25 students, two alumni and eight faculty and staff members into the Alpha Alpha Alpha (Tri-Alpha) Honor Society, which recognizes the achievements of high-achieving first-generation students, alumni, staff, faculty and administrators.

The ceremony was held April 3 in the Asa Packer Dining Room in the University Center.

George White, managing director for Student Access and Success at Lehigh, said the university established the Epsilon chapter of the Tri-Alpha Honor Society as a way to recognize high-achieving, and often resilient, first-generation students who bring a diverse set of ideas and backgrounds to Lehigh.

“They are helping to make Lehigh a better place,” said White, an advisor to Tri-Alpha.

He noted that the Lehigh students were proud to be first-generation college students. “They are doing something that no one else in their family has done,” he said. “And they’re doing it really well. They’re not just surviving college. These students are thriving in college, and they’re going to be movers and shakers in business, in industry, in government, in education, in social services because they have this commitment to both service and to their scholarship.”

At the ceremony, inductees received a pin that incorporated the organization’s logo: a star in the center of several circles. The circles indicate the various communities of which the inductees are a part—the Lehigh community, the nearby geographical community and the wider world. The star, meanwhile, represents individual inductees—beacons of light for others to follow.

Jamal Connelly ’19, a triple major in political science, religion studies and Africana studies at Lehigh, was among the student inductees.

“I feel elated to be a part of Tri-Alpha because its creation in and of itself relates to a transformation in not only academia, but access to higher education,” he said. “There are many struggles that come with being a first-generation college student, and societies like these allow first-generation students from across the U.S. to unite and share advice and resources.”

Kylie DeMaria ’19, an economics major with a political science minor, plans to pursue a law degree at Drexel University in the fall. She said she was “thrilled” to be inducted into Tri-Alpha.

“Sometimes you feel overlooked and undervalued as a first-generation college student, and your struggles sometimes feel invisible,” DeMaria said. “It’s a great feeling to be around people who understand you and appreciate you.”

Bob Flowers, also an advisor to the organization, recited the initiation pledge for the students. It read, in part, “Being first can be hard. Being first can be scary. Being first can be exciting. As part of the first generation in your family to go to college, you are a source of pride and guidance to others. By accepting membership in the Tri-Alpha honor society, you recognize your responsibility to your family and to future generations of first, to finish what you started, to be their compass leading them to their destination when the way seems uncertain, to be their light in darkness, and to support others in their own journeys of firsts.”

White said that the student inductees will choose service projects in the community as part of their inclusion into Tri-Alpha. He said that the students are considering talking with area elementary, middle and high school first-generation students about how to effectively apply to colleges and seek financial assistance. He said students also have an interest in health-related projects on campus and in the community, and in how to effectively engage in political discourse.

“I am glad that [Lehigh] is trying to recognize achieving first-gens on campus,” said Alex James ’19, who majored in computer science and business with a minor in Japanese. “And I hope that the group is able to make an impact on Lehigh's community.”

Students inducted included:


  • Reilly Callahan

  • Jamal Connelly

  • Kylie DeMaria

  • Sarah Estevez

  • Melanie Hanft

  • Alexander James

  • Daniel Lindsey

  • Kevin Ly

  • Tanairy Ortiz

  • Katelyn Reiss


  • Raahil Amarshi

  • Hira Awan

  • Stephani Huynh

  • Nicole Karpowicz

  • Daniel Lin

  • Larrisa Miller


  • Longhui Gao

  • Giorgos Hiotis

  • Nicholas LaRosa

  • Jenny lin

  • Edwin Moyo

  • Tommy Persaud

  • Joseph Saba

  • Alexis Shanley

  • Emily Tasik

Two Lehigh alumni were among those inducted into Tri-Alpha: Michael Caruso ‘67, a national wrestling Hall of Famer and president of the Caruso Benefits Group Inc.; and Frank L. Douglas ‘66, former CEO of TheVax Genetics USA Inc.

Lehigh inducted eight staff members, faculty and administrators who are first-generation college graduates.

  • Yenny Anderson, vice provost, institutional research and strategic analytics

  • Joseph Buck, vice president, development and alumni relations

  • Robert Flowers, deputy provost for faculty affairs

  • Carolina Hernandez, assistant dean and director, Community Service Office

  • Jennifer Mertz, director, Financial Aid

  • Donald Outing, vice president for equity and community and the university’s diversity and inclusion officer

  • Michael Raposa, professor of religion studies and E.W. Fairchild Professor of American Studies

  • George White, managing director, Student Access and Success

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Related Stories

President Helble at podium

Lehigh’s Strategic Plan: ‘What a Difference a Year Makes,’ Helble says

University leadership updates the Lehigh community on the progress of strategic plan initiatives.

campus beauty

Lehigh Admits Newest Members of the Class of 2028

Admitted students come from 49 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and 65 countries.

food pantry being stocked

Lehigh Opens Two New Food Pantries for Students in Need

The food pantries are located in Johnson Hall on the Asa Packer Campus and Iacocca Hall on the Mountaintop Campus.