• President L. Jay Lemons and John R. Strangfeld ’75
    Gordon R. Wenzel

April 01, 2017

By John R. Strangfeld ’75

Looking to the Future, Reflecting on a Distinguished History


2017 promises to be a year of exciting change for Susquehanna University. As we look ahead to the future with eagerness and anticipation, it’s a welcome opportunity to also reflect on our university’s distinguished history, and especially the outstanding leadership provided by L. Jay Lemons.

I have had the privilege of knowing Jay as his chair for 10 years and before that as a board member. Since joining the university in February 2001, he has provided enthusiastic, insightful, empathetic and courageous leadership, and always made the well-being of our students his top priority.

Jay’s arrival at Susquehanna coincided with a period of tremendous change in higher education, as well as profound upheaval in our country and around the world. Yet Jay’s faith in the mission of Susquehanna and his focus on our students, staff and faculty never wavered. He maintained his commitment to putting the students of Susquehanna first, and to helping the university grow and strengthen both its visibility and its reputation.

By any standard, Jay’s accomplishments as president are remarkable. During his tenure, the university’s enrollment grew by more than 30 percent, with impressive gains in diversity across the student body and expanded programming to enrich the student experience. He supported the work of academic leadership to build on an already-distinguished faculty that serves as both instructors and mentors for our students. He oversaw implementation of a rigorous, multi-disciplined central curriculum designed to prepare students to lead and serve both personally and professionally. In addition, he directed the launch of our Global Opportunities (GO) program, the innovative study-away requirement that encourages students to embrace diverse experiences around the world.

Jay also initiated key investments in our campus. He oversaw the $125-million capital improvement campaign that spurred construction of both our LEED-certified Natural Sciences Center and our new admission building. He also supported the acquisition of land for new student housing and a partnership with Geisinger Medical Center to ensure a first-rate student health complex.

The results of Jay’s vision and leadership are clear. Susquehanna is now consistently ranked among the nation’s top liberal arts institutions and is well-prepared to build on its already-proud history.

Of Jay’s many accomplishments, what I have admired most is his commitment to Susquehanna’s students. He has always made it a point to get to know them by name, to talk with them, to welcome their ideas and respond to their concerns. I know that one of his great joys has been to watch our students grow and develop at the university, and then to cheer as they move on to succeed in ways they may never have imagined possible when they first arrived on campus.

I know I speak for everyone in saying that Jay, Marsha, Olivia, Maggie, Thomas and Meredith will always be considered part of the Susquehanna family. And on behalf of the entire Board of Trustees, I extend our heartfelt thanks and best wishes for success to Jay as he embarks on his next challenge.

Now, everyone at Susquehanna can look forward to tackling new challenges under the leadership of incoming president Jonathan Green, who is ideally positioned to help the university build on its long tradition of preparing students to thrive. With Jonathan’s leadership, and the steadfast support of our new board chair, Signe Gates ’71, and the entire Board of Trustees, as well as the talent of Susquehanna’s students, staff and faculty, our university can look to the future with great confidence.

As chair of the Susquehanna University Board of Trustees, John R. Strangfeld ’75 worked closely with President L. Jay Lemons through the years. The Prudential chairman and CEO retired from the board in February. Under his leadership, the 56-person board has been lauded for its effectiveness by governance experts across the country. Strangfeld is succeeded as board chair by Signe Gates ’71, retired senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for the Barnes Group, a global industrial and aerospace manufacturer and service provider headquartered in Bristol, Conn.