Lehigh University administrators and faculty on stage during 2019 academic convocation

The 2019 University Convocation marked the beginning of a new academic year. 

Lehigh University Convocation Kicks Off 'Year of Shared Responsibility'

Convocation marked the official start of the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Story by

Kelly Hochbein

Photography by

Stephanie Veto

Lehigh’s Class of 2023, transfer students, faculty, staff and administrators gathered in Stabler Arena on Sunday afternoon for the 2019 University Convocation, which marked the official start of the new academic year. The event, which welcomed new students to the university community, also kicked off what President John D. Simon described as “the year of shared responsibility.”

Lehigh students, said Simon, already have ownership over the university, and, as such, have an important role in making Lehigh “the place we all want it to be.” 

“By virtue of your being part of this university, we are invested in your success, and you are invested in the university's success,” said Simon. “Resist the urge to kick a problem upstairs for that entity known as ‘the university’ to fix. You are the university. Each of you can make a positive impact on the lives of your fellow students, on the lives of our faculty, staff and those in the Bethlehem community.”

Lehigh University President John Simon speaks at 2019 academic convocation

President John D. Simon declared the 2019-2020 academic year as "the year of shared responsibility."

Decisions, Actions & Impact

Joseph Manzo, professor of practice in accounting, echoed the importance of responsibility and impact in his keynote address, encouraging students to take on challenges and hone their leadership skills. 

“Great leadership skills is what makes you distinctive, unique, stand out above everyone else,” said Manzo “That's a great combination to be successful. And here's the good news: You can work on this right now. You can work on leadership skills every day.”

Manzo shared how in his accounting classes, he and his students discuss ethics from a decision-making perspective. 

“What is most important that we talk about in this lesson is: How will your decisions and actions impact other people? It's amazing how much clarity you get on a decision when you take the perspective of how other people are impacted by your actions,” he said. “It is my belief that successful people who have had a positive impact on society get this right. It is a hallmark of great leadership. So while our learning objective falls under ethics, what I tell my students is that what they are really learning is the foundation of great leadership skills. You are a vital part of our Lehigh community. What you say and do matters. Your decisions and actions will impact many people in the Lehigh community, and, if you think about it, many people well beyond the Lehigh community.”

Lehigh professor Joe Manzo delivers keynote address at 2019 academic convocation

Professor Joseph Manzo delivered the keynote address, telling students, "You are a vital part of our Lehigh community. What you say and do matters."

The greatest positive impact on our world, said Manzo, “will come from people who are committed to the journey and the hard work to become great leaders with the intentions of producing a positive impact for everyone in this world. That is your opportunity. That is also your challenge. That is our challenge as we work together over these next few years. And I promise you it is worth all the effort you can give.”

Before introducing Manzo, Provost Pat Farrell welcomed students and offered some advice as they begin their academic careers at Lehigh.

“Know that what you do now, what you do for the next few weeks, really will set a pattern for you over the next four years, despite all the other things that will change in your Lehigh career,” Farrell said. “So think about it carefully when you have time, when you have space. Be intentional about what would you like those first six to eight weeks to look like and write it down. Give yourself a chance to look at that every day or two and say, ‘How's that going? Is that happening? Is that not happening?’ Because you're making yourself—even now—the person you want to be.” 

Ricardo Hall, vice president for student affairs, spoke of the experiences students will have that will shape them into the people they will become. 

“It's all for a reason,” he said of programming such as bLUeprint. “It's all tied to bettering you academically, developmentally, socially, interpersonally, so that when you do walk across the stage out in the stadium in four years, you are a better rounded person, certainly a better educated person.” 

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez welcomed students to their new home and encouraged them to embrace all the city has to offer. He highlighted the partnership enjoyed by Lehigh and the city, particularly with a focus on safety, and also emphasized students’ responsibility to practice common sense. 

Bethlehem mayor Bob Donchez welcomes students to Bethlehem during the 2019 academic convocation

Mayor Bob Donchez welcomed new students to Bethlehem. 

“I wish you great success during your four years at Lehigh and in the years after that,” Donchez said. “You have the opportunity to receive an excellent education at one of America's outstanding collegiate institutions. I hope that you will get to know our city. And maybe some of you might make Bethlehem your home in a few years.” 

In addition to the processional music by Mainstreet Brass, the Lehigh University Choir, under the direction of Steven Sametz, the Ronald J. Ulrich Professor of Music, performed the song “Magnificent Horses” and led the singing of the Alma Mater. University Chaplain Lloyd Steffen offered the invocation, and Walead Mosaad, director of Muslim Student Life, offered the benediction. 

Embracing Shared Responsibility

“Convocation is a good opportunity to reaffirm the shared responsibility among students, staff, and faculty for every student's success and to helping make the Lehigh community one in which we all can thrive,” said Farrell. 

In his address to students, Simon noted that while members of the Lehigh community have great love for the institution, Lehigh is not perfect. Quoting football coach Vince Lombardi, Simon said, “‘Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can attain excellence.’” 

Lehigh, he said, “cannot catch excellence without each one of you.” He encouraged students to embrace this shared responsibility and to avoid waiting for others to fix problems. Students’ actions, decisions and voices are essential to the university’s success, he said. 

Hall said he believes the year of shared responsibility will resonate with incoming students. 

“Beginning with their campus tours while they were still in high school and continuing through Orientation, Lehigh has consistently been presented to them as a place where greatness occurs,” said Hall. “Now, they're actually Lehigh students, and the first official message from President Simon is an invitation—even an expectation—for the Class of ’23 to take a co-lead role in our university's ongoing efforts to reach even higher heights. Our focus is a true shared responsibility of the entire community, with our students front and center.” 

Story by

Kelly Hochbein

Photography by

Stephanie Veto

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