Founder’s Day – Sam Hodges ’13 speech transcript

Here is the transcript of the student speech for October 19, 2012 Founder’s Day ceremony. Thanks to Sam for sharing it.

Members of the Board, President Gast, Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni, and Friends… Thank you for coming to Founder’s Day.

When Lehigh University was founded by Asa Packer, it was based on a novel, forward thinking ideal of giving students studying engineering and more technical trades a strong rooting in the liberal arts and sciences.  A well rounded student, Asa Packer thought, would be a leader in the their field and in their country.

As time has shown, the approach Asa Packer took to education did produce leaders in their field.  A Lehigh alum engineered the escalator; a Lehigh alum revived Chrysler back in the 1980s, and Lehigh alumni built the Golden Gate Bridge.

The approach of producing well-rounded students has stayed at the forefront of Lehigh’s mission.  While the exact methods and processes used in 1865 are not being used today, the idea of a multifaceted Lehigh graduate still permeates our culture.  During my time here, I feel as if this culture has served me well.

It is because of this unique culture that I was able to explore different fields of study outside of my International Relations and History majors.  It was from this exploration that I found theatre.  What started as a way to continue the interest I had in theatre in High School turned into my current minor.  From my theatre classes, I have learned important skills like leading groups, thinking creatively, and seeing a plan through completion.  The culture of Lehigh in advocating for a diverse academic experience provided the opportunity for me to not only find a new passion, but to learn valuable life skills along the way.

It was also in the classroom that I gained skills important to my time serving as an intern in Washington, DC for the senior Senator from my home state, Senator Baucus.  Going into the experience, I was nervous that my skill sets and experiences would not be able to keep pace with the frantic flow of Congress.  Everyone around me, the staff, interns, and the Senators themselves were incredibly brilliant and dedicated, and also extremely intimidating.  I walked into work my first day dreading the learning curve, but relishing the opportunity to start the experience of a lifetime.

What surprised me after a few weeks of work was that I had many skills from the academic classes within my majors that translated perfectly into my internship.  The learning curve I dreaded was not as bad as I thought it would be.  The dedication and research skills I learned from completing my 25 page history paper for my Junior Year writing intensive credit helped immensely in writing and researching legislative briefs.  The ability to synthesize complex information and fully understand complex policy discussions was a vital skill I learned from the many different readings and discussions I completed for my International Relations classes.  My Lehigh education was serving me well, and allowed me to hold my own with the other interns that had much more political experience than myself.

At Lehigh, though, the culture of shaping students into diverse leaders also extends outside of the classroom.  Most students here are extremely involved, which is a great strength of this university, and I am no exception.  It was from these extracurricular activities that I also learned a few lessons that have helped prepare me for my life after my time here.  One of the greatest lessons I learned during my time was that a person is only as good as what they give back.  Working at the Community Service Office has been a life changing experience for me — an experience that has taught me that one person, with the right motives, can make a huge difference.

Another lesson I learned came from the Marching 97.  My first performance my first-year here was the first time I had actually marched in a band.  I had no idea what I was actually getting myself into.  I heard the band high stepped, thought that I could lift my legs to a rhythm, and took the plunge.  It was much harder than I had ever imagined. But it was from my time in band that I learned every member of a team is valuable.  As a member of the band, either I add to the precision and beauty of a show, or divert everyone’s attention to the one trombone player that happens to be moving in the wrong direction.  Teamwork is vital to accomplish something great, and my time in the 97 made that crystal clear.

The final lesson today came from my time as an Orientation Leader.  I had the honor and privilege to serve in this position for 3 years.  Looking back, I have never spent a fall here without being, in some way, a part of orientation.  It was from my time as an orientation leader that I learned to be comfortable in my own skin.  Sure, I have my quirks.  I say crick instead of “creek”, and I tend to see things a little differently because of my background growing up in a rural community, but I also know that my nervous energy or my absolute love of below zero weather is what makes me unique.  If I needed to learn any lesson during my time here, it was greater self-confidence, and orientation gave me that gift.

All of these lessons — all of these vital skills necessary for myself to become a leader in today’s society — I learned at Lehigh.  What is great about this university is almost every student that comes here will leave with new skills and important lessons to add to the strong academic footing that this university provides.  The culture of a widely educated student that started with Asa Packer’s vision in 1865 is still alive and well here today.  It is this culture that provided the framework for myself to expand my horizons at Lehigh, and to learn the lessons that have prepared me for the future.

It is because of everyone who has been a part of the Lehigh family in the past, as well as those who are part of the family today, that Lehigh still continues to mold leaders and provide this unique culture.  Into the future, it is our collective responsibility to ensure Lehigh continues to be an institution that strives to broaden the experiences, skills, and knowledge of its graduates.  If we all take on this responsibility, I have full faith that Lehigh will continue to shine as brightly for the class of 2063 as is has done for myself and the rest of the class of 2013.

It has truly been an honor to address you today.  Congratulations to everyone being honored this afternoon, and I wish everyone luck in the upcoming year.  Thank you.


Sam Hodges is a member of the Class of 2013 with a double major in international relations and history and a minor in theatre.  He is very active on campus and is currently finishing his third year as an Orientation Leader. He is parliamentarian of Kappa Kappa Psi, a proud member of the Marching 97, a resident in the Live.Learn.Serve community, and a brother of Phi Sigma Pi.
Hodges is active in community service, and is a student coordinator at the Community Service Office.  He was also a member of the 2012 Camp Hawk Planning Board. After graduating from Lehigh, he plans on attending graduate school for higher education administration.
Hodges was raised in Big Timber, Montana and is a graduate of Sweet Grass County High School.  In his free time, he enjoys reading, playing his trombone, and being outdoors.