Helble address students

Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble '82 addresses students at Convocation.

‘You Belong Here’: Lehigh Officially Welcomes Incoming Students at Convocation

First-year and transfer students come together Friday in Baker Hall for the official start of the new academic year.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Marcus Smith '25

Lehigh officially opened the 2023-2024 academic year Friday morning with a Convocation in Baker Hall that brought together more 1,500 first-year and transfer students.

“I have to say, sitting here on the stage, looking out, how wonderful and how inspiring it is to see this sea of new students, this sea of brown and white,” Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble ‘82 told the incoming students. “It's a fabulous sight and it represents so much that's so exciting about this university. … You are all now part of the Lehigh family.”

Helble said he recognized what the students might be feeling in this week of transition to college life. When he first arrived at Lehigh as a student, he said, he wasn’t sure of his major, had never lived on his own, didn’t know if he could manage fitting in intercollegiate sports or what a Gryphon was, and hadn’t considered independent research.

“My emphatic advice as the president, as a professor, and yes, as a Lehigh alumnus who’s been through this here on this campus, is not to worry if you don’t have it all figured out today,” Helble said. He encouraged the students to try new things, push themselves outside of their comfort zone academically and professionally and to learn from failure. .

He said the first-year theme, "Crafting Our Communities with Care,” resonates strongly. “Lehigh students are grounded, have an optimistic view of the world that I frankly find infectious,” he said. “They do not sit on the sidelines, they roll up their sleeves to meet whatever challenges are thrown their way. And each and every one of you is a part of that now.”

It's you and the possibilities that we see in you for making the future and making the future better that drives us.

Provost Nathan Urban

Pointing out that universities are places where individuals seek knowledge and seek the truth, he encouraged the students to engage in open, honest and respectful dialogue in their classes and communities, and even debate on challenging issues. “We must not shut down ideas simply because we may disagree with them,” he said.

Lehigh Provost Nathan Urban also addressed the incoming students. “You belong here,” he said, pointing out that, through the admissions process, “we chose you and you chose us. So we chose each other.”

He told the students that university leadership, faculty and staff were committed to their success.

“It's you and the possibilities that we see in you for making the future and making the future better that drives us,” he said.

He pointed to a number of alumni who have made their mark across professions after leaving Lehigh, including those in the fields of architecture, journalism and governmental and diplomatic affairs.

“I should note that as you take this journey, not everything will go smoothly,” Urban said. “You will experience challenges. In fact, challenge and even failure is part of the plan. Your faculty will challenge you intellectually to do more, to work harder, to be more creative than you've ever been before. Life will also be a source of challenge. Every Lehigh student has moments in which they question how or whether they can rise to the occasion. They have and you will, and we will support you as you do so.

“So embrace that challenge. Enjoy the successes that you’ll have, learn from the failures, and remember that your success is our success."

Also among those addressing the students were Bethlehem City Councilman Michael Colón, who invited the students to step off campus and into the Bethlehem community; Ricardo Hall, vice president for student affairs, who officially welcomed the students; University Chaplain Lloyd Steffen, who delivered the invocation; and Rabbi Steven P. Nathan, director of Jewish Student Life and associate chaplain, who delivered the benediction. The Lehigh University Choir, led by Steven Sametz, the Ronald J. Ulrich Chair of Music, and the Mainstreet Brass, performed.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Marcus Smith '25

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