NEW BERLIN — SELINSGROVE -- John R. Strangfeld, chair of Susquehanna University’s board of trustees, announced the extension of President L. Jay Lemons’ contract through June 30, 2017, citing a desire to continue the momentum Susquehanna has achieved under his leadership. Dr. Lemons joined Susquehanna as president in 2001, after serving for eight years as chancellor of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
The announcement was made on Sept. 21 in a letter to the university community.
“This ensures continuity of Dr. Lemons’ leadership, allowing Susquehanna to sustain the tremendous momentum achieved during his tenure to date,” wrote Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial Inc. and a Susquehanna alumnus. “There is great alignment between Dr. Lemons’ goals and those of the board. … The continuity of leadership ensured by this reappointment provides an ongoing opportunity to move Susquehanna forward in ways that will benefit all members of the university community, as well as the world our students are being prepared to serve and lead.”
“I am grateful for the board’s invitation that I continue to serve in this capacity and I am thankful for the many members of the campus community, our alumni and the broader community who make this a very special place to work and to live,” Dr. Lemons said. “I look forward to working collaboratively to continue the momentum we’ve achieved by working together.”
Susquehanna has emerged in recent years as a member of the Annapolis Group, which includes 130 of the nation’s leading, residential, liberal arts colleges. It has been cited as a national leader for its graduation rates, consistently placing among the top-performing liberal arts colleges and far exceeding the average graduation rates among all colleges and universities.
During Dr. Lemons’ tenure, the university has developed two strategic plans that placed an increased emphasis on intellectual engagement and a strong university community. A new central curriculum was introduced, adding the Global Opportunities (GO) requirement. With the addition of GO, Susquehanna is among only a handful of schools to mandate a study-away experience for all students and is the only institution that requires a post-travel course in which students reflect on how that experience changed them.
“In three years, nearly 700 of our students have either traveled to, or will be visiting, countries on six of seven continents,” Strangfeld said. “The GO program has set Susquehanna apart by ensuring an integration of the cross-cultural experience and the broader academic program. This is critical in an increasingly global economy.”
The university’s enrollment has climbed by 36 percent since 2000-01 to 2,224 for the 2012-13 academic year, and application numbers have set new records under Dr. Lemons’ leadership. The increases have been spurred by an expanded campus footprint resulting from strategic property acquisitions and a number of capital improvements, including a new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified Natural Sciences Center that is a symbol of educational excellence, quality and innovation. “The growth has allowed us to increase the depth of our academic programs,” Strangfeld noted.
In recent years, the university has made significant progress in the areas of diversity in the student body, as well as among the faculty ranks. “This has enhanced the academic experience and the quality of student life, both of which also are being strengthened by a capital campaign that met with success despite a deep recession.” The campaign, during which the university celebrated its sesquicentennial, was Susquehanna’s most ambitious, well exceeding its $70 million goal.
The university also has seen progress on the cocurricular side of the house during the past decade. The athletics program has been realigned under new athletic conferences and the LeaderShape program was established to develop student leaders. Moreover, Susquehanna’s Greek organizations saw a growth in numbers, which included the emergence of the historically black fraternities and sororities. TRAX, a student-run nightclub, and a number of new residence halls—some of which have earned the coveted LEED certification—also have been added to the campus landscape.
“These are challenging times for higher education and our nation’s liberal arts colleges,” Strangfeld wrote. “We believe Dr. Lemons’ sustained leadership is a great asset for Susquehanna as we confront these challenges. He has helped to move Susquehanna to the forefront and the board has tremendous confidence that his guidance will be beneficial in determining how to ensure that a liberal arts education remains vital, meaningful and accessible both here at Susquehanna and in the landscape of American higher education.”