May 17, 2017

John R. Strangfeld and L. Jay Lemons have worked as partners for the past 10 years. Lemons, Susquehanna’s tall, energetic president, and Strangfeld, the cool corporate executive and recent university board chair, oversaw an era of dramatic growth for the central Pennsylvania liberal arts college.

So it’s fitting that for Lemons’ last Commencement as Susquehanna’s president, he invited Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc., to serve as speaker.

The May 17 event was Lemons’ 17th Susquehanna Commencement before he steps down as president next month. Strangfeld joined Susquehanna’s Board of Trustees in 1999 and served as chair for 10 years, until February, when he became an emeritus board member.

Under their leadership, Susquehanna experienced dramatic enrollment growth, increased the diversity of its student body, expanded the campus footprint, added buildings, completed a successful capital campaign, launched new programs and adopted an innovative Central Curriculum.

In addition to his board leadership, Strangfeld and his wife, Mary Kay, have provided significant financial support for various Susquehanna programs and projects throughout the years, such as the multi-year funding of coaching salaries for postgraduate athletic interns. The Strangfelds were also major donors for Susquehanna’s new Admission House, dedicated on Commencement day.

About 460 graduates participated in the graduation ceremony in the James W. Garrett Sports Complex Field House. An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was bestowed on Strangfeld, as well as on Harold C. and Nancy M. O’Connor of State College, Pa. Harold O’Connor joined Susquehanna’s Board of Trustees in 1981, and served as chair from 1986 to 1997. The O’Connors have had a continuing commitment to Susquehanna students and have provided outstanding leadership to the university for many years.

In 1997, upon Harold’s retirement as board chair, the O’Connors established the Harold C. and Nancy M. O’Connor Distinguished Achievement Fund at Susquehanna. The endowed fund provides annual scholarships to outstanding students, chosen as O’Connor Scholars because they demonstrate qualities of “leadership, including academic ability, concern for others, and a commitment to service.” The fund also supports the Harold C. and Nancy M. O’Connor Professorship, given to a distinguished faculty member who excels in teaching and scholarship.