As we were thinking about naming the celebration to commemorate the 50th year since Lehigh agreed to allow women into the undergraduate programs, we selected “50 Years of Coeducation” over “50 Years of Women,” partly because hundreds of women were already part of the Lehigh community—as graduate students, alumnae, faculty, staff, parents, wives and daughters—and partly because we wanted the name of the celebration to reflect that the change impacted the men of Lehigh, too.
I am highlighting a few men who were here for the all-male, then coed campus, and who embraced the change. (To be honest, over the years I’ve heard plenty from men who didn’t agree with the decision, and still don’t!) The submissions have been edited for space, but you can find their full story at go.lehigh.edu/soaringtogetherblog.
I recall that going coed was a controversial decision, much more so among former graduates who wanted to preserve tradition than among students: Virtually all of my friends supported Lehigh becoming a coed institution.
I came to Lehigh drawn by its academic reputation, despite the male-only environment. From the perspective of a Gryphon, the freshmen men’s experience interacting with women was generally wanting, unnatural, and uncomfortable, to say the least. They tended to meet women “up on the hill” at frat parties, but those encounters were often one-time contacts with non-Lehigh women. Observing and interacting with the students today confirms for me what a positive step the transition to coeducation has been for Lehigh: Men and women students have the opportunity to cultivate the types of meaningful professional and personal relationships that weren’t very likely when I was a student.—John O’Hara ’73