OLD FRIENDS STAY CONNECTED
Scott Miller, president of Virginia Wesleyan University and chair of the board of Academic Search, has known Lemons for nearly 30 years. They first crossed paths as young college presidents when Lemons was at Wise and Miller was at Lincoln Memorial University. When they reached their mid-50s, they had a conversation about what their futures might hold. Miller, who opted to move on to his fourth presidency, aggressively recruited Lemons for the Academic Search role.
"Jay has impeccable integrity, sound judgment and is self-motivated. He has cultivated relationships at the national level for Susquehanna, which have elevated his visibility and the university's. He's served aspresident of both a private institution and a public, so he's well-known by the Council of Independent Colleges, as well as the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. He is highly respected in both quarters."
Miller cited Lemons' leadership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as rare for a president at a Division III school. Lemons currently serves as vice chair of the NCAA's board of governors and last year spent three months as interim chair. He is also chair of the NCAA's Division III President's Council, and co-chair of the NCAA's ad hoc Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.
"The president of a small, private college moving to the top of a mega billion-dollar national organization is amazing. It shows his caliber as a leader and a person," Miller says.
Gates agrees, crediting Lemons with enhancing Susquehanna's reputation through his very active involvement in a number of national higher education circles. "He's done an extraordinary job, building on the history and foundation established at Susquehanna and putting it on an upward trajectory on a number of fronts."
Lemons' rise to prominence is no surprise to Annette Gibbs, retired professor of higher education and longtime director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at UVA's Curry School of Education.
Gibbs met Jay and Marsha Lemons in 1988 when the Lemons were at Texas A&M University. Jay Lemons spent three years at Texas A&M working in student affairs. Recognizing their talent, Gibbs encouraged one or both of them to move to Charlottesville and enroll in UVA's doctoral program, which focused on law, business management and higher education.
One of Gibbs' first impressions of Lemons was that he genuinely liked students. "He brings that extraordinarily perfect blend; he's very human, very humane and extremely competent."
Gibbs, who has stayed in touch with Lemons over the years, added that he is always fully present in the place he is serving. "Wherever he decides to be is always the best place, and that was certainly true of both Susquehanna and Wise."