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First Word

Building a Campus Community

Dear Alumni and Friends

In the decades preceding Gustave Weber's appointment as Susquehanna's 11th president in 1959, the university had been slow to capitalize on one of the greatest expansions in the history of American higher education. He recognized the strategic necessity of growth and built an infrastructure that made it possible. The result, according to Professor Emeritus of History Don Housley, was that President Weber "effected a revolution in the physical, academic and social environment at Susquehanna University."

During Weber's presidency, the university's sectarian "ethos" gave way to greater intellectual and social freedoms for students, and Susquehanna became a more welcoming, diverse and inclusive community. Weber's 18-year tenure included many major milestones on an important institutional journey that continues to this day.

One such milestone was the arrival 50 years ago this fall of Susquehanna Trustee Bill Lewis, who began his college career at an institution on the cusp of significant growth and change. As Susquehanna's first African-American graduate in 1968, Bill both benefited from and helped propel changes that have been part of our ongoing journey. He and others share their experiences in the stories that follow.

Another milestone of Weber's presidency was his 1972 encounter with local businessman Charles Degenstein. Their shared commitment to the powerful educational opportunities that Susquehanna provides led the charismatic Lutheran clergyman and the socially conscious Jewish businessman to forge an enduring friendship. Susquehanna continues to benefit from that friendship through the extraordinary support of the Charles B. Degenstein Foundation.

We value diversity and inclusion because it is the right thing to do and because it is an educational imperative for life, citizenship and leadership in the 21st century. The Association of American Colleges and Universities states unequivocally that a high-quality liberal arts education must include a focus on diversity and inclusion. I am proud that Susquehanna is a national leader in this regard, and I am especially grateful to the faculty for creating an ambitious and demanding curriculum that expects all students to develop an understanding of and appreciation for diversity.

From founder Benjamin Kurtz's conception of the university as a place to train clergy from modest means, to opening doors to first-generation college students and students from rural Pennsylvania's lower-income families, Susquehanna has a long tradition of providing access to a better future. The New York Times recently recognized the university as one of the top 10 most economically diverse colleges in the nation. 

With very best wishes, 
L. Jay Lemons, President

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