Every budding college needs a piggybank to get it started, and for Lehigh, the cash came from Asa Packer of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in 1864.
In 1864 Asa Packer decided to give back to his state by contributing $500,000 toward the creation of Lehigh (it was at the time believed to be the largest-ever donation to an educational institution). While he deliberately chose to build the university in a community settled by Moravians, the university’s affiliation with the Episcopal Church was dropped in 1897.
Packer and his fellow trustees hoped that their institution would offer both a scientific and classical education. Initially the school had one general school of literature and four scientific schools for civil engineering, mechanical engineering, mining and metallurgy, and analytical chemistry. Lehigh began to enroll women in its graduate programs in 1916, but did not enroll female undergraduates until 1971.
The main Asa Packer Campus is built into the side of South Mountain, overlooking the town of Bethlehem. With gorgeous lawns and beautiful gothic stone buildings, it isn’t hard to see why students brag about campus aesthetics. Lehigh’s campus is composed of ivy-covered historic buildings such as Linderman Library and Packer Memorial Church, as well as more modern glass and brick structures like Campus Square. University Center is a frequented hub on campus, housing the food court, dining hall, deans’ offices and a bank. The Hill hosts the fraternity and sorority houses and is a major hangout for students regardless of their affiliation.
Bethlehem, PA doesn’t have a ton to offer college students, but Lehighites don’t seem to mind because their campus provides all the entertainment they could ask for. Some recommend that students don’t venture too far by themselves into the town of Bethlehem at night.
Lehigh University is situated in the Lehigh Valley fifty miles north of Philadelphia and ninety miles southwest of New York City. Lehigh is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a city initially settled by Moravians and later taken over by the steel industry. Today you can still see the remnants of the steel factory as well as the Moravian influence on the northern side of town, in Historic Bethlehem.
While the school’s immediate surroundings are grittier and more working-class, a slew of decent restaurants surround the town, and a more affluent part of town is just over the bridge or over the hill. Local businesses and restaurants offer good deals and friendly service to students. There are two shopping malls within a fifteen minute drive of campus, and without a car you can easily reach a number of restaurants. Two pharmacies, three banks, a small grocery store, and a convenience store are all located within walking distance of campus.
Lehighites have tons of pride in their school and they love participating in Lehigh traditions.
As reported by Lauren Bloch ’10:
“Two major traditions define Lehigh social life. In the fall is Lehigh-Lafayette Week, in celebration of the historic football rivalry (the teams have played 143 times since 1884, making it the country’s most-played football rivalry). Despite our four-year losing streak, we definitely out-party Lafayette every year, and that’s a fact. The whole week is a party, complete with parades, bed races, a bonfire, and a rally. Students sport racy T-shirts that graphically depict the Mountain Hawks’ supremacy over the Lafayette Leopards.
The second highly anticipated activity of the year is Greek Week, when all of Lehigh’s sororities and fraternities compete in weeklong festivities and debauchery. There are parties like Fiji Island and D-Phi Mardi Gras, daily beer-b-ques, opening ceremonies (complete with togas and a theme for each house), and beauty pageants/auctions for Mr. Lehigh and Theta Chi Sweetheart.”
Scott Belair and Richard Hayne (1969) co-founded fashionable firms Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People.
Philip Kent (1976) is the bigwig Chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting.
Harold Mohler (1948) had the sweet gig of President and CEO at Hershey Foods.
Don Most (1972) played Ralph Malph on the parental favorite, Happy Days.
Jesse W. Reno (1883) built the world’s first escalator.
Lehigh students have tons of pride in their school, even if attendance at sporting events doesn’t prove it. Athletic fandom usually fizzles out midseason, but no matter the date, these kids love a good rivalry.
As reported by Lauren Bloch ’10:
“Lehigh students don’t regularly attend too many sporting events. Football games are perhaps the most popular, though interest seems to wane toward the end of the season. Wrestling is another beloved sport. Members of the Bethlehem community join students in the stands to celebrate Lehigh athletics. Even when the crowds aren’t large, lots of Lehigh students participate in athletics. The men’s soccer team completed one of its best seasons in 2006. The crew team welcomes students of all skill levels.”
Lehigh’s major rival is nearby Lafayette College; theirs was recently ranked number 8 by ESPNU among the top ten college football rivalries.
Beirut, the cousin of Beer Pong, (a game where ping pong balls are thrown into beer cups sans paddle) was allegedly invented at Lehigh in the early 1980s.
Dorm life is a major part of the Lehigh freshman experience. Students bond with hallmates and everyone has an affectionate connection to their first-year residence. Many students opt to move into Greek houses at the start of their sophomore year, but those upperclassmen that stay in campus housing enjoy prime real estate.
As a first-year student you may live in the upper or lower Centennial complexes. Lower “Cents” is composed of six buildings surrounding a small lawn and volleyball court. Each of these buildings has three floors, and the bottom floor is always made up of all-male triples or quads. The two other floors are either single-sex or mixed. There is a gryphon (Lehigh’s answer to the R.A.) on every floor except the first.
The upper “Cents” complex is organized similarly; however, they don’t have the same outdoor common space. “M and M,” which has the smallest rooms, was once the most popular freshman dorm because of its proximity to food, social life, and classes. Richards typically holds two or three all-male halls and one all-female hall. Its rooms are the largest, and a lot of athletes tend to live here. Dravo has the most interestingly-shaped rooms, and if you’re get a single, you’re probably living in Dravo. While most of the other buildings have predominantly doubles, Dravo has triples, doubles, and singles. All freshman residences have common rooms with full kitchens, vending machines, and a laundry facility.
Those who do not live in fraternity or sorority houses as sophomores are put into a lottery for room selection during the spring of their freshman year. Sophomore housing options are more complex, but upperclassmen are usually able to live in singles. Drinker is very similar to Richards. Sophomores may also live in Taylor, another residence hall that contains mostly doubles as well as some singles. The Trembley apartments are probably the most popular choice for sophomores, offering suites with two singles, one double, and a shared kitchen. Also, the newly-built apartments in Sayre Park contain four singles with a kitchen in each suite.
While juniors and seniors are not required to live on campus, many do choose to stay. Apartments in both Trembley and Sayre Park are reserved for upperclassmen. Apartments in Campus Square are another popular option for upperclassmen wishing to remain on campus.