Statue of Asa Packer

Lehigh Virtually Celebrates Founder’s Day, Family Week

The university honors the legacy of founder Asa Packer in video tribute and virtual events.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Continuing a tradition that dates to 1879, Lehigh celebrated the legacy of Asa Packer in a video tribute to its founder that featured a virtual beam signing for the university’s innovative, new Heath, Science and Technology building and kicked off virtual events to mark Family Week.

The Lehigh community can watch the video celebration and share Lehigh memories at and join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #LUFounders.

“The life of Asa Packer and the life of Lehigh University demonstrate that while the lessons of the past can guide us, it’s our actions that define us,” says Kashi Johnson, chair and professor of theatre at Lehigh, in the video tribute. Who could have expected the legacy Asa Packer would create when he gifted the largest endowment for an educational institution in the history of the United States? The initial impact of our founder and our founding has not diminished. In fact, it pushes us forward.”

In the video, Kevin Clayton ’84 ’13P, chair of the Lehigh Board of Trustees, talks about the tradition of Founder’s Day in celebrating Packer as well as those who followed in his footsteps. He also noted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the festivities. 

“Founder’s Day has changed through the years,” he said. “It has been a time for graduation ceremonies, lectures and campaign launches. For students, it has meant dances, class contests, concerts and even the Brown & White BBQ on the Clayton University Center lawn. But never before has it been celebrated virtually. These are, after all, unprecedented times.

“Yet whether we’re gathered in Packer Church or around a laptop,” he said, “Founder’s Day remains a touchstone for our community and a celebration of leadership and generosity.”

Lehigh President John D. Simon ’19P noted how the university has risen to the challenges of creating new ways of engaging its students, defining new frontiers of knowledge and modernizing its infrastructure and research facilities to support the creativity and innovation of faculty and students.

Simon pointed to the new College of Health, which welcomed its first undergraduate students in the fall. “We are now able to educate a new generation of leaders who are equipped to improve the health and well-being of potentially millions of people,” he said.

The Founder’s Day video also included footage of the digital signatures being added to a steel beam for the new Health, Science and Technology building. More than 4,400 members of the Lehigh community―alumni, faculty, students and their parents, staff and friends of the university―virtually signed the beam.

The celebration continues online through Oct. 9. The Family Week schedule includes virtual meet-and-greets for parents and families, panel discussions, student presentations, family Shabbat, yoga class, information sessions, tours and Lehigh trivia. More information can be found here.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

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