Lemons' contentment stems from a deep understanding of vocation, and Susquehanna is a place where he gained an appreciation for the Lutheran notion of vocation, something he often discussed with former University Chaplain Mark Wm. Radecke.
"I always felt called to the field of education," says Lemons, the son of two teachers. "But Mark helped me understand that there are two dimensions to vocation-the internal and the external. It's a matter of answering the questions, 'What are my passions and who are the people who can provide opportunities for me to pursue those passions in the service of others?'"
Lemons' journey has led to encounters with many people who cleared the way to paths he may not otherwise have taken. But after Susquehanna, another college presidency was never an option, he says. "There was no place I've wanted to be besides here, so I didn't want to move on to another college or university. Susquehanna has fit us so well. But you also have to know when it's time to move on."
As important as leadership stability is, it also has its limitations, says Lemons, who chose to step down from the presidency at the end of his third contract.
"Those who stay too long can deny their institutions the refocusing opportunities that come with a 'shifting of the prism.' I believe that new perspectives and fresh questions are essential to creating a renewed sense of urgency and agency."
Lemons' presidential colleagues are pleased he'll be moving on to Academic Search, where he'll have an opportunity to recruit college presidents and shape the future of higher education leadership for years to come.
"Search consultants are essential in higher education," notes Casteen, Lemons' longtime mentor. "A person who would make for a good president at one institution would not necessarily make a good president for another.
"Jay has long-term experience, which is funny because those of us who knew him at UVA remember him as the young guy. He's a good listener, a good analyst and understands institutional needs. He has extraordinary talents. Consultants have a lot to do with how colleges and universities plan to handle the future. My guess is Jay will emerge as one of the very best consultants of this sort."
Although unplanned, Lemons' path to Wise, Susquehanna and now Academic Search has been rewarding. The chance to embrace new professional challenges, even as he remains tied to Susquehanna, promises to be a good arrangement for someone who, Gibbs says, has never forgotten where he came from even as he's moved forward in life.
His new role will provide him with an opportunity to continue to pursue his passion, which is service to higher education. "Foundational to the work of higher education, especially liberal arts institutions, is encouraging students in the internal work of finding their vocations," says Lemons. Clearly, he has found his own.
Angela Burrows is the chief communications officer at Susquehanna University.