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A Close-Knit Society: Gryphons Celebrate 60th Anniversary

Alumni Gryphons who attended the 60th anniversary breakfast on Saturday, October 28, were (from left) Board of Trustee emeritus member James Duane ’73 ’04P ’06P ’06PG, Lehigh’s Director of the Parents’ Program Tori (Penske) Aitchison ’92 ’20P, W. Gary Liddick ’76, Patricia (Teller) Beadling ’73, Thomas Duane ’76, Celeste Varricchio ’73, Sybil (Fischman) Stershic ’75, José Arenchibia ’74 ’80G ’90G ’03P, Gryphon founding member Beall Fowler ’59 ’84P ’89P ’16GP, Sara Haimowitz ’81, Robert Haimowitz ’78, John O’Hara III ’73, and Gryphon founding member Michael Gordon ’61.

Since its inception in 1957, the Gryphon Society has fostered the creation of countless meaningful bonds among its members and the community they serve — a convention that is still evident today. The supportive relationships developed between Gryphons and residents is often reciprocal. When Gary Liddick ’76, who was a Gryphon in Drinker and Dravo residence halls, decided to propose to his wife, Sandy, during his senior year, residents in Dravo helped him plan and prepare a fondue dinner in their hall. When she said yes, they all celebrated together.

On October 27 and 28, 2017, alumni Gryphons returned to campus for a 60th anniversary celebration that began with a Friday evening reception in the Herbert A. Roemmele ’53 Global Commons in Williams Hall. On Saturday, the program continued with a breakfast in the Asa Packer Dining Hall in the University Center and ended with a campus tour. The alumni reconnected and also met current Gryphons who attended the events. The overriding theme heard during the celebration was, “Once a Gryphon, always a Gryphon.”

The concept of the Gryphon Society was a student-led proposal and developed with the support of the administration. The society was established to provide a fraternal, intellectual, and organizational experience for its members who acted as mentors and tutors, oversaw residence hall life, and served as a direct resource for students. The organization aimed to ease the college transition process for first-year students. Gryphons from class years 1957 to 1962 are considered founding members. Those in attendance at the celebration were Beall Fowler ’59, Michael Gordon ’61, and Raymond Wolfgang ’60.

In addition to honoring founding members, the Saturday program included an update about student life from Vice Provost for Student Affairs Ricardo Hall, a panel discussion with current Gryphons, and members past and present sharing some of their most memorable experiences from working with students. Board of Trustee emeritus member James Duane III ’73 ’04P ’06P ’06PG provided memorial remarks about founding member John Harmon ’59.

During Hall’s comments, he shared some of the upcoming expansions of the university: the addition of 1,000 more undergraduate students, the creation of a college of health, and the construction of new dormitories. He noted how the campus community will be affected by these changes and that the support of the Gryphons will be an important resource.

“The significance of what you did or what you are doing as Gryphons cannot be understated,” Hall told the audience.

In the panel discussion led by Assistant Director of Residence Life Ethan Fields, Gryphons Harrison Birabaharan ’18, Lana Azalea Fabia ’19, Ian Mason ’19, and Monica Powers ’20 shared stories about their experiences. They talked about the interview and selection process, Gryphon training, and the highlights and challenges of maintaining a community of residents. They also emphasized the values of team building and bonding within the Gryphon community.

During the open mic session when alumni spoke about what it meant for them to be Gryphons, Duane spoke fondly about his favorite memory – Gryphon dinners – where everyone in attendance was “laughing from start to finish.” He said a majority of his close friends were Gryphons, whom he described as smart, caring, resilient, honest, fun, and empathetic.

“You all made Lehigh a better place and are among the best people I’ve had the honor of knowing and calling my friends,” Duane told his peers and added that he still considers himself a Gryphon.

Sybil Stershic ’75, a member of Lehigh’s first class of women, echoed Duane’s sentiments about the close bonds within the Gryphon community, as well as her appreciation of the opportunity to establish close relationships with university administrators.

“I have never met a more caring and compassionate group of people,” Stershic said.

John O’Hara III ’73, who helped organize a tutoring program while he was a Gryphon, described the society as “the greatest group of people that I got to know while I was here.”

The alumni also recognized the role played by Dean Clarence Campbell, the former associate dean of students and director of residence life, who advised and helped the Gryphon Society take flight from 1957 until his retirement in 1974.

Today, the Gryphon Society remains an integral and extraordinary part of Lehigh’s Residence Life Services and is comprised of students from all colleges, athletic teams, Greek Life, and club programs. Gryphons continue to work to foster an ever-welcoming and academically supportive environment for all Lehigh students. Currently, the university employs 104 students as Gryphons, 13 of whom are Head Gryphons.

Megan Stevens, director of regional and affinity strategy for alumni relations, remarked on the impact the Gryphon Society has had on student life and said, “Gryphons help to prepare students for their futures while simultaneously preparing for their own.”

Klaudia Jazwinska ’18

Photos by Jessica Mellon ’21