Virtual Honors Convocation Celebrates Academic Accomplishments

More than 600 students were recognized for high academic achievement as part of the 41st annual celebration, which took place virtually this year.

Story by

Carina Sitkus

On May 15, 2020, the 41st Honors Convocation Ceremony took place virtually to honor the more than 600 juniors and seniors who earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.60 or higher out of a possible 4.0 as of December 2019. View the recording. 

The event was originally scheduled to take place on April 3, 2020, in Baker Hall in Zoellner Arts Center and was moved to the online format in light of the spring semester’s remote academic environment. 

In keeping with tradition, the program featured student speakers from each undergraduate college

Jennifer Jensen, deputy provost for academic affairs, shared opening remarks and introduced the student speakers. 

“We celebrate [our students’] efforts and achievements and recognize the family and friends who have supported them throughout their academic journeys,” said Jensen. “Our honorees embody the academic excellence that is at the core of Lehigh.”

Reflecting on an Unprecedented Semester

Jensen introduced and thanked Patrick V. Farrell, who will be returning to the faculty at the end of June, for his years of service as provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Farrell acknowledged the unique challenges of the semester and commended students for their response. “The key for success, as I'm sure most of you have figured out, is your ability, willingness and determination to persist when things are not going as smoothly as you'd like...” Farrell said. “The flexibility you all exhibited about being able to shift quickly to a completely different mode of learning and teaching is impressive. But frankly, this is not the only time you will be called upon to be flexible...you are likely in your career going to [experience] equally, if not more, abrupt and dramatic change. 

“So while it may not have felt like your learning how to deal with the flexibility here was a key part of your Lehigh experience—and it certainly wasn't one we planned to be part of your Lehigh experience—figuring out how to work through that, work with that, perhaps even on occasion take advantage of that, actually will turn out to be in my view yet one more thing you take away from your Lehigh experience that I think will serve you well into the future.”

A common thread running through the remarks of each of the student speakers—all graduating seniors—echoed Farrell’s reflection and underscored the message that despite the challenging experience of being removed from in-person instruction and the on-campus residential environment this semester, the Lehigh experience has prepared them to be resilient. 

Linh Phuong Pham ’20

Linh Phuong Pham ’20

“This semester has been an unprecedented change for everyone,” said Linh Phuong Pham ’20 from the College of Business. “However, as those who are here being honored today are highly achieved students, I believe Lehigh has prepared us with all the skillsets to effectively adapt to this abrupt change. As a senior, for the past four years, Lehigh has not only provided me with an integrated education that challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, but also provided me with an invaluable network of professors, classmates and alumni, and especially the friendships that I will forever treasure.

“Those who are returning to campus can keep leveraging the opportunities and building memories at Lehigh,” she continued. “For those who are graduating, the world is changing every day with technological developments or with unexpected and impactful events like what we’re going through right now. But with a Lehigh education, we are ready to go out there, adapt to the ever-changing world and impact the world in different ways.” 

After graduation, Linh will use the President's Scholarship to earn her masters in accounting information analysis from Lehigh, and then will begin a full-time position at Ernst & Young’s New York office.

 

Ashleigh Crawford ’20

Ashleigh Crawford ’20

Ashleigh Crawford ’20, who was a member of the Lehigh cross country and track and field teams, spoke on behalf of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, discussing the perspective she developed through the unusual learning environment of the semester. While it was difficult to have the athletic season cut short and to miss on-campus experiences, she said, she learned many lessons as a result of the pandemic’s impact. 

“Those who are returning have gained an appreciation for in-person classes and office hours where you can talk to professors and get lunch with your friends after… I know this won’t be the last of the lessons I receive from Lehigh,” Crawford said. “I’m not sure I’ll ever stop learning from this place. But I do know I’m extremely appreciative of all of its lessons: to have grown to find resilience in frustration, to identify the importance in what feels lost and to know the dedication to honor those values.” 

Crawford will begin a doctoral program in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University this fall.

Eric Wolf ’20

Eric Wolf ’20

Eric Wolf ’20, an Eckardt Scholar from the College of Arts and Sciences who will be pursuing a doctoral program in physics at M.I.T. next year, spoke about how the academic experience can be likened to running a race—and instead of running away from something or to meet the next milestone, the experience of the race itself is what’s important. 

I believe a person might choose to run because they like the feeling of the road under their feet and the sweat rolling down their face,” Wolf said. “And likewise, I believe a person might go through all the work required to get here not because they have to but because they want tobecause it helps them grow and teaches them about the world around them and makes them feel like a bigger, more complete, person.” 

Lloyd Steffen, university chaplain and professor of Religion Studies, concluded with the benediction. 

Lehigh will celebrate all graduating students through virtual celebrations taking place Saturday, May 16, and Sunday, May 17

The in-person Commencement Ceremony, originally scheduled to take place on Monday, May 18, was postponed

Story by

Carina Sitkus

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