L. Jay Lemons
L. Jay Lemons has been president of Susquehanna University, a national liberal arts college enrolling approximately 2,100 undergraduates, since February 2001. He has led the university in development of a new strategic plan emphasizing increased intellectual engagement and a stronger university community, a highly successful 2014 10-year accreditation review by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, a period of significant enrollment growth, a $100 million capital investment plan, completion of Susquehanna’s largest fundraising campaign, and support of the faculty’s innovative new Central Curriculum.
Lemons was raised in a home of two school teachers and views himself primarily as an educator. He is deeply committed to a broad-based, liberal arts education and believes there is no better preparation for civic leadership than through the liberal arts experience. He is an enthusiastic advocate of community service and a proponent of partnerships between the university and elementary and secondary schools, particularly those that will result in greater student diversity on campus. Other topics of particular interest are the continuing affordability of college and collaborative approaches to planning and decision-making. He regularly invites Susquehanna students to join him for lunch to share views and perspectives about their college experience.
A native of Scottsbluff, Neb., he earned a B.A. in philosophy and a B.S. in physical education and health education from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1983. He earned his M.Ed. in educational psychology and college student development from the University of Nebraska in 1985. He received his Ph.D. in higher education administration in 1991 from the University of Virginia. In 2001 he was recognized by the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education with its distinguished alumni award and in 2002 Nebraska Wesleyan University conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Lemons began his career in student affairs at Nebraska Wesleyan, served in admissions at the University of Nebraska and worked in the Department of Student Affairs at Texas A&M University before he began doctoral studies at the University of Virginia. As assistant to presidents Robert M. O'Neil and John T. Casteen III at the University of Virginia from 1989 to 1992, Lemons oversaw major projects on assignment from the president and served as the liaison to three major units of the university. In 1992, President Casteen asked Lemons at age 32 to undertake a short-term assignment as chancellor of the university's liberal arts college, now known as the University of Virginia's College at Wise, a selective, public, liberal arts college in southwestern Virginia. That "short-term" assignment evolved into an 8 ½-year tenure before he answered the call to become Susquehanna’s 14th president.
Lemons has been very active in the community and in professional organizations. Among the organizations he has served are the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Susquehanna United Way, Selinsgrove Area Youth Foundation, the Selinsgrove Rotary and Sunbury Community Hospital. He is immediate past chair of the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce. Lemons’ leadership in higher education has been significant as he has served as board chair of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Campus Compact and the ELCA Council of Presidents. He is also a former board member of the Council of Independent Colleges, where he served in many capacities including chairing its nominating committee; an executive committee member of the Associated New American Colleges; as a committee member for the Commission on Leadership and Institutional Effectiveness of the American Council on Education; and as a member of the Committee on Student Aid of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
He has been married to Marsha Schone Lemons since 1984, and they are the parents of four children: Olivia, age 21; Maggie, age 19; Thomas, age 16; and Meredith, age 14.