Dr. James MacLaren speaks with LVC students

Dr. MacLaren Praises LVC Students for Helping to Stop the Spread of COVID-19

President James MacLaren tells Penn Live that most students on the Lebanon Valley College campus followed the rules for masks and social distancing.

Dr. James M. MacLaren

Lebanon Valley College experienced so many historic moments in 2019-2020, including welcoming the largest-ever undergraduate class, hosting a memorable Homecoming, celebrating another #1 ranking for job placement in Pennsylvania, and—to the delight of many—completing the bridge connecting the northern and southern sections of campus. This issue of the President’s Report highlights the passion for The Valley expressed by numerous students and alumni spanning more than half a century.

Valley Magazine Summer 2020 Cover

The Valley Magazine—Summer 2020

An interview with Dr. James M. MacLaren, LVC's 19th president

Community Messages

In observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Day—Jan. 17, 2022

Dear Campus Community, 

On this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I invite you to view the 2022 holiday observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Change and explore the resources available on the center’s site.  

In honor of Dr. King’s legacy, tonight at 7 p.m., LVC is offering a night of service in support of local nonprofits; students with permission to be on-campus can sign up on Redbook. Such efforts move us toward achieving Dr. King’s vision of a “just, humane, equitable, and peaceful world” (The King Center’s mission). For example, this past weekend, the Lancaster Lebanon Habitat for Humanity passed the keys to a house on Cumberland Street to a man named Ronnie. LVC students and staff volunteered their time and energy over three years to help build safe and affordable housing for Ronnie and other homeowners. (You can see the Facebook photos here.) There will be many more service projects—remote for now and hopefully in-person soon—available to the LVC community. I hope you will identify ways to continue Dr. King’s unfinished work, whether through service, dialogue, activism, education, or facilitating structural change. 

Please also mark your calendar for the 2022 Symposium on Inclusive Excellence: Journey Together, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 8, in-person and online. Saul Flores, a photojournalist who walked 5,328 miles through 10 countries to document immigrants’ journey to the United States, will be the keynote speaker. His visual presentation promises to educate us and inspire our community to make a positive difference in the world. 

My best, 

President MacLaren

Remote Start to Spring 2022 Semester—Jan. 3, 2022

Dear Students, 

Given the regional surge in COVID-19 infections and the transmissibility of the omicron variant, LVC will begin Spring 2022 semester courses remotely for two weeks, starting January 17. The College made this decision in consultation with Penn State Health in the hopes that infections will be on a downward trajectory by the end of the month. However, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and make further adjustments as necessary.

  • In-person classes are now set to begin January 31. (Note: Provost Cowart is working with health professions programs that have a pedagogical need for some students to begin in-person learning January 17. If you are a health professions student or an education student with a teaching placement, please look for messages from your program director or chair.)
  • Students—residential and commuter—should delay their return to campus until January 30. Those who need to return earlier than January 30 must complete this Request for Early Move-In form by Thursday, January 6, at 4 p.m. Exemptions will be granted on a case-by-case basis for students with exceptional circumstances.
  • Student-athletes will be contacted by their coaches with their report dates.
  • Vaccinations and boosters are highly effective in mitigating the spread and severity of COVID-19, even the latest omicron variant. In fact, the majority of those hospitalized and critically ill are unvaccinated. Higher vaccination and booster rates maximize our ability to return to and sustain in-person learning.
  • Any student who has reported being boosted will be entered into a weekly drawing for a $100 gift card starting January 17 and continuing through the end of the semester. Report being fully vaccinated or boosted here. Please get your flu shot as well. 
  • The CDC has made changes to its quarantine and isolation recommendations. Students who have received their boosters or have completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last five (Pfizer) or six (Moderna) months or have completed the primary series of J&J vaccine in the last two months will not be required to quarantine if exposed to someone who tests positive.* Otherwise, you will be required to quarantine if you are a contact of someone testing positive. 

Upon your return to campus: 

  • We will not require re-entry testing. However, we encourage you to get tested before your planned return. If you have symptoms of an illness, delay your return to campus until you are well.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms of any illness—even if it is a sniffle and even if you are fully vaccinated, fill out the Daily Symptom Tracker in MyLVC. Shroyer Health Center staff will contact you. DO NOT visit Shroyer without an appointment, and please do not visit an urgent care center in lieu of seeing the healthcare professionals at Shroyer.
  • Please wear surgical masks, N95s, or cloth masks of at least three layers. Universal indoor masking will continue, including in residence halls. Residential students are required to mask up inside residence halls. The only exception is when roommates are inside their room with no other visitors.
  • Please follow all masking, testing, isolation, and quarantining guidelines. Contact tracing and surveillance testing of unvaccinated individuals will continue. Those who do not comply will be subject to disciplinary action under the student conduct code.
  • Classroom distancing of at least three feet will continue. Practice social distancing of at least six feet whenever possible.
  • If it is determined that you must isolate or quarantine, you may be required to go home until you are cleared to return to campus. 

Contact information@lvc.edu if you have questions. 

Thank you for your flexibility and understanding.  

President MacLaren 

*Please check the CDC and FDA websites for the latest information about vaccination protocols and timelines for your age group.

Veterans Day—Nov. 11, 2021

Dear LVC Community,

On this Veterans Day, we honor the bravery of all those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. 

In marking the first commemoration in 1919, one year after World War I fighting ceased, President Woodrow Wilson said: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

In gratitude, veterans may pick up a complimentary t-shirt at the LVC Bookstore, free coffee and donuts at InterMetzo or Bishop Brews, and free lunch from Metz at Mund Dining today. Just let the staff at these locations know you are a veteran.

Please join me in thanking the many veterans in our campus community for the sacrifices they have made.

President MacLaren

Remembering 9/11—Sept. 8, 2021

Dear LVC Community,

Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks on the United States. The country still bears many wounds as a result of the tragic events of that day—from the families who lost loved ones in the attacks and ensuing military actions, to the first responders suffering health issues, to the turmoil happening right now in Afghanistan. 

This summer my wife and I visited the twin towers memorial in lower Manhattan. At the site of the north and south towers water flows into two large reflecting pools in the respective foundations. In the memorial and around the perimeter of each pool are listed the names of all those who perished including those who died in Somerset County Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. It is a solemn and moving experience that captures the magnitude of the attacks and honors those who perished that day. I encourage those who travel to New York to take the time to visit the memorial at ground zero. 

But in the hours and days immediately following 9/11, we also saw the best of humanity in our country: Communities across the political spectrum coming together united to grieve, comfort one another, pray, and begin a healing journey—a journey that continues to this day.

On Friday, Sept. 10, at noon, LVC will pause to remember those whom were lost and honor our heroes and our country. Please join me on the Social Quad for a few moments of silence and reflection.

President MacLaren

Honoring Juneteenth, Supporting Inclusive Excellence at LVC—June 17, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you are enjoying the fantastic weather and taking some time to relax and enjoy life.

On Saturday, the nation commemorates Juneteenth, a day marking the end of slavery and celebrating African-American freedom and achievement. I encourage you to learn more about Juneteenth here and reflect on the ways that as individuals—and as members of the LVC community—you can continue to advocate for equality and justice for all.

There is much work to be done at LVC. After hearing from many within our campus community, I have decided to restructure some open positions to better support our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. I’m pleased to announce that LVC has created a cabinet-level Assistant/Associate Vice President of DEI and Institutional Success. Reporting to me, the AVP will coordinate and align DEI efforts across campus and serve as the chief DEI strategist. The two full-time intercultural and inclusive learning positions currently situated in Student Affairs will now report to the new AVP. The office will bridge vision and strategy and develop critical institutional DEI initiatives, policies, and projects while using a deep understanding of the challenges needed to be overcome for systemic change. The goal is to create an inclusive campus and student experience.

The DEI team will be located in a prominent space on campus that will also serve as a designated space for BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) students to gather. I’ll share more details as plans coalesce. If you know candidates for the position, please encourage them to apply.

Gina and I will look forward to hearing about your vacations and staycations when we can all be together on campus in the fall. 

All my best,
James

Nonviolence, anti-racism, and healing—April 20, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

The weekend was another all too familiar, tragic one in the United States. Outrage and turmoil have erupted in the wake of the police shooting deaths of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 20-year old Daunte Wright. Multiple mass shootings and civil unrest have occurred in a month when the U.S. marks the 26th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and the 21st anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. The forthcoming verdict in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck, will surface even more pain no matter the outcome. As a community, we must support each other and commit ourselves to nonviolence, anti-racism, anti-bias, and healing. 

I am fully committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion as a priority and ethical responsibility. The College has made progress in recent years. For example, we have implemented several initiatives proposed by the Inclusive Excellence Task Force that Provost Cowart convened in 2019. Candidates for faculty positions must now include a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement in their application materials, faculty hiring committees receive search committee-specific DEI training, and current faculty members must demonstrate diversity, equity, and inclusion work in their tenure and promotion materials. Among LVC’s most recent developments are the launch of the Social Justice & Civic Engagement major, the formation of the Bias Resource & Education Team, and a new system for bias reporting. We expect the results of the climate survey conducted this semester to arrive soon. It will take several months to analyze the data for presentation in early fall 2021. I am committed to full transparency throughout this process.

I promise that we will work vigorously to address equity gaps, bias, and racism in our campus community and provide the staffing resources needed to achieve this. We are committed to becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. And we must be open and honest in confronting our flaws and healing the hurt that members of our community are experiencing. 

Current events and their historical context are a lot to process. For students, counseling services staff, 50/50 Peer Mentors, and individual Mosaic Mentors, coaches, faculty, and staff are available both in-person and virtually to provide support.

I fervently hope that the United States begins reforming public health and safety. The reality is that this process will likely be slow and decentralized. It can be easy to feel powerless in the face of such challenges, but each of us must play a role through our actions and words in ending racism that is at the root of these all too common tragic incidents. As a community, we must strive every day to ensure that everyone at LVC is safe, welcomed, respected, seen, and heard.


James

Vaccines for All Adults in PA Starting Today—April 13, 2021

Good Morning, LVC Community!

The long-awaited day is here: Starting today, April 13, 2021, all groups are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, including college students from out-of-state and all employees. 

or

  • Find a vaccine provider here. The PA Department of Health has assured us that students from outside of Lebanon County will be able to schedule their second dose in their home communities if needed. Those under 18 should look for locations that offer the Pfizer vaccine.

I’ve gotten my first dose and am waiting for my second. The process was easy and painless. I strongly encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as you can get an appointment.

When you are fully vaccinated, fill out this LVC form.

Until the vast majority of the population is vaccinated and we have achieved herd immunity, continue to practice distancing, wash your hands often, avoid gatherings, and wear a mask over your nose and mouth. We can do this—and, thanks to science, vaccinations are our key to success!

Have a terrific day,

President MacLaren

Standing together against violence—March 19, 2021

Dear LVC Community, 

As the week draws to a close, all of us are still struggling to come to terms with the horrific violence in Georgia that saw eight individuals, including six women of Asian ethnicity, gunned down at their places of work.

We are mourning for the people who lost their lives. We understand that to pay full tribute to their memories, we must remain on full alert against racism and misogyny, which leads to violence, often targeting women and those of a different race than the perpetrator. Coupled with a yearlong pandemic, these events can make us anxious and uncertain about the future. LVC Counseling Services are available both virtually and in-person for students who need to talk to someone.

These are troubling circumstances, but we can rely on each other for comfort and solace. Together, we stand against bigotry and violence. Let us reaffirm our commitment to the crucial work of fostering an equitable, inclusive, and peaceful society.

President MacLaren 

Honoring MLK at LVC—Jan. 18, 2021

In striving for equality, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remained steadfast in his commitment to nonviolence even in the most divisive of times. Today, as our nation celebrates his leadership and legacy during a painful time, I invite our College community to reflect on Dr. King’s words and deeds and consider how we can contribute to achieving a more peaceful and just society. You can read some of his landmark speeches here and learn more about the work that continues in his honor here.

President Ronald Reagan signed the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday into law in 1983. This federal holiday day is the only one that focuses on community service, and it has Pennsylvania roots through the legislative efforts of Senator Harris Wofford. The tens of thousands of hours of service that members of the LVC community contribute each year make our society more equitable. Throughout the pandemic, this work has looked a little different, as with so many aspects of our lives, but it is nonetheless impactful. This week, there are some special opportunities to serve specifically to advance justice within the local community. Together, we can explore local poverty issues through daily simulations, a virtual tour of the food and clothing banks and shelter at Lebanon County Christian Ministries, a food and clothing drive, and a conversation and reflection via Zoom on Friday. Please email Jen Liedtka at liedtka@lvc.edu for details and to sign up. Many thanks to Jen for coordinating these opportunities.  

Our College mission calls upon us to think critically, listen to a diversity of thoughts and opinions, and resolve differences peacefully. I hope we all continue to seek service opportunities and live by the principle of nonviolence as we work towards a fairer society.

 

President MacLaren

A Statement on American Democracy—Jan. 7, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

I am shocked and saddened by the violence that unfolded yesterday in our nation’s capital. Violence and intimidation in an attempt to achieve political results are grave threats to our future, our freedoms, and our democracy itself. On behalf of Lebanon Valley College, I condemn such acts, as well as the actions that fomented the events. Fortunately, the rioters did not succeed, and a peaceful transition of power to duly elected officials will take place this month—just as it has throughout American history.

We have much work ahead of us as a nation to protect America as a beacon of democracy and bring about healing. We can start within our own community by recommitting to LVC’s mission and values. In a world where information can be weaponized and altered to suit nefarious purposes, higher education’s role is crucial to our achieving a healthy and just society. We always have a responsibility to educate and learn, discuss and analyze issues critically, seek out and speak the truth, and become informed citizens. One of the things we do best at LVC is pursue civil dialogue and listen closely to each other. I urge us all to continue fulfilling these responsibilities, no matter how difficult, especially at this challenging moment in history.

For students who need someone to talk to, our Counseling Services is open for virtual sessions. I encourage faculty and staff to check in with their loved ones and, if helpful, seek professional and spiritual support. 

Together we can and must build a better future.

 

Take care,

President MacLaren

Board of Trustee Resolution and Excellent Retention—Nov. 4, 2020.

Dear Colleagues,  

Your excellent work in responding to COVID-19 and meeting the needs of our students has not gone unnoticed.
In late October, the Board of Trustees surprised us with the below Resolution of Appreciation for all LVC and Metz employees. Each of you has shown extraordinary dedication to sustaining our students and the College through the complex and stressful challenges of a global pandemic.

The fall 2020 enrollment numbers reflect your efforts. As of the October 15 census, our first- to-second year undergraduate retention rate stands at 83.2 percent. This rate is the best since 2014 and represents a 9 percent increase since the previous year (our records go back to 1995—there has not been an increase of this magnitude since then). Despite the changing enrollment patterns due to the pandemic and the related increased withdrawal rates among our first-year and transfer students, we have more students enrolled this year than we did last year or the year before (1,959 students this fall compared to 1,915 in 2019 and 1,922 in 2018). We also see a positive trend in graduate student enrollment (260 students this year, 186 in 2019, and 172 in 2018).  

These successes are the result of your highly collaborative efforts to recruit, enroll, educate, and engage students, and to proactively identify and support students in need of extra guidance or resources. LVC’s students feel they belong here, know we support their growth and development, and believe in their LVC education. You have made that happen.  

These are very trying times. Please remember to care for your own mental, emotional, and physical well-being. The trustees appreciate you, I appreciate you, and LVC’s students appreciate you.  

James    

RESOLUTION  Appreciation of Employees by the Lebanon Valley College Board of Trustees  Whereas, in March 2020, the Governor of Pennsylvania, responding to the unprecedented circumstances arising from the challenges of a pandemic affecting not only Pennsylvania and the United States, but also the entire world, ordered the closure of virtually all organizations and businesses in Pennsylvania, including institutions of higher education;  Whereas, upon extremely short notice, and with truly phenomenal effort, the faculty of Lebanon Valley College pivoted from in-person learning to a fully online program;  

Whereas, the faculty of Lebanon Valley College then engaged in the extraordinary task of preparing and delivering an educational experience that is effective both in-person and online as it prepared for the fall of 2020;  

Whereas, the faculty was supported in its efforts by all employees of the College, without whom the College could not function; Whereas, the dedicated employees of Lebanon Valley College, ranging from groundskeepers,  housekeepers, maintenance workers, and employees in all departments from admissions, student services, food service, marketing, human resources, public safety, information technology, accounting and finance, maintenance, advancement, athletics, health services, and the Breen Center to the senior leadership team and those in the President’s office; and  

Whereas, rarely is there a time as ripe for an expression of appreciation for the hard work and efforts of all who make Lebanon Valley College possible, and who may feel that their efforts go unnoticed, but whose efforts are in fact noticed with gratitude.  

Now Therefore, be it:  

RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees expresses its profound appreciation for the extraordinary efforts of the faculty, staff, and senior leadership of Lebanon Valley College during the unprecedented and exceedingly challenging circumstances arising in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic as they continue to do what they have always done: deliver a transformative educational experience that develops students who exemplify the best that an education grounded in the liberal arts can be.        

Election Day—Nov. 2, 2020

Dear Campus Community,  

Tomorrow is Election Day. If you haven’t already done so (and if you are eligible), I encourage you to go out and vote, taking all the necessary COVID-19 safety precautions.

Voting is one of the greatest responsibilities of U.S. citizens. We have the privilege of choosing who represents us in making crucial decisions about the local, state, and global issues that shape our lives today and for years to come.  

Whatever the outcome of the election, I am asking each of us to remain civil and extend kindness and grace to each other—especially when we disagree.    

I know these are stressful times. Let’s all support each other and uphold our LVC commitment to inclusive excellence. If you need to talk through anything, you can connect with LVC staff members for listening hours on Thursday, Nov. 5. Academic and student affairs staff and members of the Committee on Intercultural and Inclusive Learning will be in the Fellowship Lounge in the lower level of Miller Chapel any time from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wear a mask and practice physical distancing. No need to make an appointment.  

Additionally, Provost Cowart, Dean Mikus, and I will be available for virtual office hours noon-1 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4, if you’d like to share anything with us or ask questions.

For counseling services, students may use on-campus drop-in hours through Friday, 11 a.m.–1 p.m.  

By engaging each other respectfully, we can work together to achieve a better future.  

President MacLaren

New Partnership with Penn State Health—Aug. 25, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

I am happy to report that Lebanon Valley College has established a partnership with Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center as part of our fall return-to-campus preparations. Through its Department of Family and Community Medicine, the medical center will provide LVC with a medical director with direct experience treating college-aged students, additional clinical health center staffing, guidance on responding to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, referrals for testing, and contact tracing support.

On- and off-campus clinical care for students will be significantly expanded. The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center has hired Dr. Levelle Drose-Bigatel, a family practice physician who will serve as medical director of LVC’s Shroyer Health Center. In addition to her general directorship duties, she will advise College staff regarding the care of students with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, refer students for COVID-19 testing, and provide guidance to the College on public health and infectious disease plans and protocols, drawing on expertise from Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine.

An advanced care practitioner (nurse practitioner or physician assistant) from Penn State Health will provide on-campus care alongside Shroyer Health Center staff and allow us to expand health center hours. Students will also have 24/7 access to Penn State Health’s on-demand virtual services, as well as in-person and on-call care at Penn State Health Medical Group—Palmyra.

Crucial to our reopening is the College’s ability to conduct thorough contact tracing, which requires substantial training and staff resources. Through this partnership, the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center will provide a licensed practical nurse to guide us in the process and to conduct tracing as needed. Eighteen LVC staff members have completed contact tracing training through an online course provided by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I am extremely grateful that they have signed up for such an important role.

Please continue to practice physical distancing, limit your interactions with others, wash your hands often, and wear a mask.

Sincerely,

President James MacLaren

LVC's Commitment to Inclusion and Fairness—June 1, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

We are writing to you today because we feel strongly the need to reach out together to our community and to express in this letter what we would be expressing in person if the College were in session.

Across the United States, we are witnessing anguish, sorrow, and frustration over the issues of injustice and racism, of wrongful actions by those entrusted with serving and protecting, and of excessive violence against members of the Black community. Sadly, George Floyd is only the most recent victim of too many lives lost.  

None of us condones violence as a solution to injustice. But all of us can, and should, feel outrage when we see a man dying needlessly in front of our eyes. For the Black community especially—but for all of us— this scene is brutally, painfully familiar.

These events and these issues go to the core of the LVC community because they stand in opposition to everything we are working toward. Our learning community is built on inclusion and fairness, on the assurance that every person will be treated with dignity, recognized for their abilities, supported in their efforts, and acknowledged for their accomplishments. As a community, we must continue to find ways to advance this core value.

If we were together, we would want to hear your voices now. Our hope is that you will not be silent in your own community nor in the LVC community. We can and should affirm these values that make us strong. The hard truth is that we need to do more to strengthen tolerance and understanding, to speak out against the pernicious nature of systemic racism, to effect reform in our region, to create broader solutions in our state, and to produce an authentically inclusive learning community. This is not work that will be completed quickly but it is work that must continue until we have truly made a difference.

We encourage you to take action to bring about change. Identify well-established organizations to which you can contribute your time or resources. Work for change through the political system by researching candidates to identify those whose values best align with yours, and then vote. Educate yourself as much as possible on these issues using reliable sources.

We are committed to continuing the conversation at LVC. You are welcome to respond to this email with your questions and recommendations for ways in which LVC can contribute to regional and national solutions and become stronger in our own efforts to be inclusive.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lewis E. Thayne, president

Dr. James M. MacLaren, president-elect

Presidential Remarks

2022 Commencement Celebration—May 14, 2022

Welcome. I am James MacLaren, the 19th president of Lebanon Valley College. It is my privilege and honor to welcome you to the 153rd Commencement Ceremony. To our graduates, many congratulations. And to the friends and family of our graduates—thank you for your support through the years. You played a pivotal role in their journey to graduation, and like LVC’s faculty, staff, and administration, I know how proud you are of all their accomplishments. Graduates, please give your friends and family a big round of applause!

Graduation ceremonies are special and happy occasions in the life of colleges and universities. A time of ceremony, celebration, and tradition—but also a time of excitement, nervousness, and anxiety as you transition to the next stage of your life. I am confident that, despite the uncertainty of the moment, you have been well prepared by the College for future success.

As members of the Class of 2022, you have the good fortune to be graduating from one of the best colleges in the country. You have had the opportunity to receive an unparalleled education that has, and will, continue to enrich your lives. You have learned how to learn. You have worked with dedicated and exceptional faculty, caring and supportive staff, and talented peers on your journey to this momentous day. Please join me in thanking all the faculty, staff, coaches, and classmates who have been such an important part of your education at the College.   

Your college experience has been quite the journey. Midway through, you had to face all the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. For part of your collegiate career, you had to socially distance—and what an oxymoron that term is—wear masks and negotiate hybrid classes using Zoom. And because of COVID, Zoom and hybrid work are likely to be a part of our lives going forward. You probably all have had some great insight in class or a meeting only to realize when halfway through your argument that you were still muted. How many cats, dogs, and children have graced your screen uninvited, adding some much-needed lighthearted moments to our days. I know my cat has never been camera shy. Despite all of this, you made it to graduation. Wow! You have learned to be resilient, dedicated, and adaptable—all skills that will serve you well later in life.

I suspect that as you look back at your time at LVC, you will quickly realize that it has gone by so quickly, that you have learned and grown so much, that you have made lasting friendships, and if history is any guide, a number of you will have already met your future spouse while studying here too. It is my hope that these have also been a happy four years that you would readily do all over again. I hope that you will continue to be true lifelong learners.

While your time at The Valley has been short, please know that you have had a lasting impact on our community through your contributions in the classroom, in your work with faculty in research or independent study, for your involvement with some of the many service and volunteer opportunities offered by the college, and for some of you through your time competing as student-athletes.

Today’s graduation ceremonies are more commonly known as Commencement since they signify the start of the next phase of your life. I hope that once you leave LVC you will continue to make the world a better place through your thoughts and actions and build upon what you have learned and achieved as students. You are entering the workforce at a time of great change. At some time in your working lives, many of you will be in jobs that don’t exist today, and that is exciting. Even if this doesn’t happen to you, you will still be surprised at the number of twists and turns your career will take. Despite the negativity often seen today, I am an optimist and remain optimistic about the future because of you. You have accomplished much thus far, and I am confident that you will continue to accomplish so much more in your futures. We need talented and educated individuals like you to help address the challenges facing this country.

All of us at the College admire your passion, character, and commitment. We will miss you but are also excited to learn about all you will accomplish. As the most recent alumni of the College, I ask just one more thing—that you keep us informed of all your personal and professional successes and triumphs. Come back to visit us often. I wish you every success and happiness.

And now, please pardon me as I take a quick picture.

Thank you and Go Valley!

Presidential Response—October 22, 2021, Inauguration Ceremony

Thank you, Dr. Mark, for such kind words and for being such a great friend and colleague for more than 30 years. And a heartfelt welcome to Dr. Felicia Brown-Haywood, LVC’s first associate vice president of diversity, equity, inclusion, and institutional success! We are so excited to welcome you to the College’s leadership team.

To the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of Lebanon Valley College: Thank you for welcoming the MacLaren family so warmly. I send my deepest gratitude to LVC’s trustees, who have been such dedicated thought partners in imagining the College’s bright future. I am especially indebted to Elyse Rogers, board chair, who has given so much time and energy to help me hit the ground running. 

To Skip Missimer, who chaired my search committee—and who, I have since learned, is a fellow beekeeper. To Kathy Bishop, who chaired my transition committee, and to the other members of that committee: Your insights and guidance have been priceless to my having a successful first year at LVC.

I am humbled to join the distinguished group of LVC presidents who have shepherded this exceptional College for 155 years. 

I especially want to acknowledge my predecessor, Dr. Lewis Evitts Thayne, the 18th president of Lebanon Valley College. Dr. Thayne, you have been so gracious with your time and counsel throughout the transition and beyond. It was an honor to join you in charting a course through the early days of COVID that would allow LVC to open for in-person learning last fall. The strength and growth of LVC’s academic programs, enrollment and retention increases, and this beautiful campus and its facilities reflect your eight years of leadership and commitment to taking LVC further. Gina and I thank you, and we wish you, Dorry, and your family all the best. 

Dr. Stephen C. MacDonald, the 17th president of LVC. Welcome back to campus. After six years as Lebanon Valley College’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, Dr. Stephen MacDonald served as president of LVC from 2004 until his retirement in 2012. MacDonald’s years at the Valley were marked by major building and capital projects, as well as the expansion of the College’s academic program. His impact also extended beyond campus into the surrounding community of Annville, where he was able to re-establish strong bonds of mutual trust and respect with the local community. Gina and I look forward to getting to know you and Mary better.

And last but certainly not least, thank you to my family: my wife Gina, and my three daughters Emily, Meg, and Caroline, who have been both inspiration and support over the years—as well as a sounding board for so many bad dad jokes.

My journey from London to Annville was far from linear, as is probably the case for many people’s life’s journeys. Singular events have changed the course of my life in profound, unexpected, and fortuitous ways. At a time when academic jobs in my discipline were scarce, Tulane University offered a fantastic opportunity. Before arriving at Tulane in August of 1990, I had visited New Orleans just once for a conference. I was excited to have a faculty position in which I could conduct research, teach, and train graduate students and postdocs—and I loved my job. I must admit, the southern heat and humidity took some getting used to. I had never lived somewhere where there was such heavy rain that, on occasion, it allowed students to canoe on the streets. I had yet to understand what catastrophic damage so much water could do.

I was happy teaching and researching, and I even enjoyed my time when it was my “turn” to chair the physics department. A new path to higher education leadership came when a colleague in the theater department at Tulane, unbeknown to me, suggested me as a candidate for associate provost. What a great job: As a tenured professor, if I didn’t like the opportunity, I could go back to my original position in the physics department. It turned out that I immensely enjoyed working across the university with the faculty, deans of Tulane’s schools and colleges, and student leaders.

Those leadership experiences energized me and gave me new insights into how my career in education could benefit students and transform lives and communities.

Everything was going well at Tulane in the early 2000s. Our enrollments were strong and growing, and we had emerged from some financial challenges. Then, late in August 2005, a tropical storm named Katrina crossed the Florida peninsula and emerged into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Katrina was initially projected to turn eastward into the Florida panhandle near Tampa, but high pressure over the U.S. and ideal conditions for strengthening caused the storm to explode into a large and dangerous Category 5 hurricane that was now tracking right toward New Orleans.

Tulane packed up students and bussed those who couldn’t go home to Jackson, Mississippi. My family and I left New Orleans with our pets (a Great Dane and two Guinea pigs) and headed to meet colleagues and students in Jackson. Over the next few days, we watched the news in disbelief as the levee system failed and caused the flooding of about 80 percent of New Orleans. It was clear we were going to be displaced for some time. The MacLarens relocated that fall to join Tulane’s core leadership in Houston, and I set to work with my colleagues on the high-stakes task of rebuilding a university.

I am so thankful for the leadership and mentorship of President Scott Cowan and my colleagues, including Dr. Mark. It took a lot of hard work to re-envision and rebuild, but we did it: We brought Tulane back to the world to offer an even higher quality, supportive, and inclusive education to our students.

I’m recounting this story for you today because I learned many lessons from that time of crisis, and among them are three principles that define my leadership approach. I believe they will resonate with you because they very much reflect the LVC community’s values and practices.

The first principle is this: Always value the importance of people and community. Relationships and trust are the currency that allows us to go beyond the immediate, to look further out, and successfully plan for the future—and then to work together to achieve that future.

Relationships and community are intrinsic to LVC. I could sense that in the early conversations with the search committee. The more I learned about the College and the more of you I met, the more in awe I became of the genuine warmth and regard that members of the LVC community have for one another.

An organization that values trust and grace is on course to achieve its vision. LVC has this ethos.

The second principle that I have embraced as a lesson of the Katrina recovery process is this: In times of duress, the need to care for oneself and care for each other takes on great significance. The world is barely beginning to comprehend the physical and mental health ramifications of the pandemic. As LVC’s leader, I will ensure that resources, programs, and policies are in place to support wellness and well-being—from psychological and physical health to student financial education to employee support and investment.

We have already been through significant challenges together, so the third principle I will share with you today is the principle that drives my optimistic outlook on life and work. The principle is this: Out of crisis, seek opportunity. When unexpected, dark times occur, they force us to reevaluate everything—to take five, ten, or 100 steps back and consider the new, better ways we might approach our lives and work. To acknowledge that, yes, these times are traumatic and uncertain—and also: Now is the time for hope, vision, and imagination. Now we will plan for better days and better ways of being.

Colleges that thrive in the coming years will have a clear vision and financial sustainability, and they will innovate while staying true to their mission and values. That is why I initiated the Imagine LVC strategic planning process during a pandemic in my rookie year as a college president.

We planned for the worst regarding the pandemic, and then we did more than hope for the best. We engaged in deep, intensive dialogue about what LVC stands for, how we should invest our time and resources, and how we can shine even brighter. The College community joined together remotely in late 2020 and spring 2021 to define the College’s path to the future.

Among the questions discussed: What do we stand for as a community? What will we do during the next three to five years that allows us to outperform our competitors and educate our students to go further and achieve more than they ever thought possible?

Building on great prior work, including the Envision 2020 strategic plan and One Campus Master Plan, the community coalesced around a mission, vision, value set, value proposition, and action items that are authentic to LVC, ambitious, and energizing.

The result: A data-informed, focused, inspiring strategic plan that leaves room for agility as circumstances change. We seized the opportunity to articulate how we, together, will achieve the ideal version of how to prepare students for lifelong personal and professional success.

Upon reviewing the Imagine LVC plan in the context of these remarks, I noticed that … there they are! The three principles of community, care, and opportunity that I outlined a minute ago, underpinning the strategic plan.

You can hear them echoed in our community’s shared values:

  • Placing students at the center of every decision
  • Broad and deep learning
  • Critical thinking, communication, analytical, and creative skills
  • Inclusive Excellence
  • Mentorship
  • Health and wellness
  • Kindness, community, and relationships
  • Service and global citizenship
  • Adaptability and innovation
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Shared governance

You can see the commitment to community, care, and opportunity, threaded through—and threading together—the strategies and tactics of Imagine LVC, among them:

We will establish a distinctive, integrated career counseling and vocational exploration model. The Edward and Lynn Breen Center for Graduate Success will facilitate many of these efforts, but they will also be infused and embraced throughout the campus culture.

We will enhance our ecosystem of highly personalized engagement and support for students. This ecosystem includes building on powerful academic support and retention work, addressing equity gaps in student enrollment and outcomes, building a wholly inclusive and welcoming community, and offering high-quality educational programs that prepare students to succeed in in-demand careers and become forces for good in society.

We will ensure an LVC education is affordable and accessible. Scholarship resources must increase, and we will embrace open-source learning materials as a start. But we must also get creative and establish a viable model that contains families’ debt and builds a firewall between LVC’s financial future and the discount wars destabilizing higher education.

We know the economy will continue to change rapidly, and there will emerge sectors of the job market with high demand. That’s why we will continue to build out undergraduate and graduate academic programs that prepare students to fulfill the needs of employers and society. The new nursing BSN program, master of clinical mental health counseling, and master of science in intelligence and security studies are excellent examples. They are proof of the power of staying alert for opportunities and then moving quickly and thoroughly to create new, mission-aligned programs that prepare students for meaningful work.

In imagining the future of LVC, I found it fun to think about how to prepare students for careers in sectors that do not yet exist. Skill in advanced and emerging technologies will be crucial for students to address complex issues. Thus, we will establish a digital learning commons that prepares students for future work environments. The second floor of Vernon and Doris Bishop Library will become a hub for technology, interdisciplinary learning, design thinking, and innovation, with an associated maker space.

We will focus on advanced technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and emergent technologies with transformative potential. I see LVC integrating digital learning commons programming and opportunities with curriculums across the disciplines.

As a physicist, I am comfortable saying that achieving what we have imagined is not rocket science! 

LVC is well-positioned to lead the way in delivering a distinctive, highly effective model of education. Our successes in recent years include enrollment and program growth, significant retention gains, expanded brand recognition, new and upgraded facilities, national and international student awards, and the development of outstanding academic and career support services—among many other points of pride.

We have several friends of the College joining us from Annville, Lebanon, and the central Pennsylvania region today. Know that LVC is committed to forging additional connections with elected officials, businesses, nonprofits, schools, and community organizations. Mutually beneficial partnerships will help us all thrive together.

As your leader, I commit to assessing and continually refining our plans as circumstances shift around us. I commit to transparency and collegiality at all levels of operations, leadership, and governance. I promise to guide LVC in alignment with LVC’s mission and values, holding fast to the principles of community, care, and opportunity.

I am honored and humbled to have been chosen by the Board of Trustees as the 19th president of this esteemed institution of higher learning.

Lebanon Valley College is a special place with a beautiful campus, extraordinary faculty and staff, and talented, caring students. The MacLarens feel fortunate to be here with you.

We have imagined LVC’s future. Let’s go there together.

- Dr. James M. MacLaren

Convocation 2021

I’m James MacLaren the 19th president of Lebanon Valley College. What a great day! It is such an honor and privilege to welcome you on behalf of the faculty, staff, and your peers to Lebanon Valley College as you embark on what I am sure will be an amazing time in your lives; one of discovery, learning, personal growth, lifelong friendships, and in some cases, if history is any guide, meeting your partner or spouse.  

The faculty and staff are here to help you succeed, to help you go further than you thought possible, to support you through personal challenges, and to celebrate with you in your accomplishments of which I am confident there will be many.  

I am reminded of many conversations I have had with new students over the years, and I would like to share just a little of what I have learned from them. Most often I hear about the nervousness and anxiety at this time of transition and the feeling that they are the only ones experiencing this. This is just not true. It is also completely normal. Most—if not all—new students have times of uncertainty and anxiety during their first year. Sometimes it is because of that paper or midterm, but often it is just part of the adjustment to a new stage in your life.   We understand this and we are here to help ensure your transition from high school to college is successful. As I have said to students in the past, please let us know how you are doing, because as talented as the LVC team is, they haven’t figured out mind reading yet. 

The importance of community, care for oneself and one another is more important now than ever before. Your wellbeing is the foundation of your success and happiness. This philosophy is integrated into our mission and values, it is part of LVC’s DNA.

My advice is to stay on top of your classes and take advantage of our academic support services. Join student organizations and get involved in the life of the college. It is never too early to visit the Breen Center for Graduate Success. They can help you see how your academic work connects to career goals.  

Having watched my three daughters go through their first year of college, I know how challenging it is to balance your studies, social life, activities, and sports if you are a student-athlete with enough rest and downtime. They all told me they didn’t get much sleep but always made time for naps. Great advice!

I want to conclude my welcoming remarks by reading a short passage from “The Station” by 20th-century author and storyteller Robert Hastings. The poem tells us about the joy of life’s journey. Your journey at LVC and into a bright future starts today.

Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We’re traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing, and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering … waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station.

However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

“When we reach the station that will be it!” we cry. Translated it means, “When I’m 18, that will be it! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it! When I win a promotion, that will be it! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it! I shall live happily ever after!”

Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track

It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

Thank you and enjoy your journey at LVC!

2021 Commencement Celebration

May 23, 2021

Welcome. I am James MacLaren, the 19th president of Lebanon Valley College. It is my privilege and honor to welcome you to the 152nd Commencement Ceremony. To our graduates, many congratulations. And to the friends and family of our graduates—thank you for your support of them through the years.  You are a big part of where they are now, and I know how proud you are of all their accomplishments. Graduates, please give your friends and family a big round of applause!

Graduation ceremonies are special and happy occasions in the life of colleges and universities— a time of ceremony, celebration, and tradition. 

As members of the Class of 2021, you are fortunate to be graduating from one of the best colleges in the country and to have received an unparalleled education—one that has, and will, continue to enrich your lives. You have worked with dedicated and exceptional faculty, caring and supportive staff, and talented peers on your journey to this momentous day. Please stand and join me in thanking all the faculty, staff, coaches, and classmates who have been such an important part of your education at the College.   

Your final year has been a year like no other. We all had to socially distance (and what an oxymoron that term is!), wear masks, and negotiate hybrid classes using Zoom. You likely all had this great insight in class only to realize that you were still muted halfway through your argument. How many cats, dogs, and children graced your screen uninvited, adding some much-needed lighthearted moments to our days. You had your noses probed as part of surveillance testing, and you had to text friends across the table in the dining hall because of plexiglass screens. Yet, despite all these hurdles, you made it to graduation. Wow! You learned to be resilient, dedicated, and adaptable, all skills that will serve you well later in life. As Elyse noted, these experiences will bond you even more closely to your classmates and the College. I am confident that you will look back fondly upon these times. You exemplified our guiding principle for ourselves, for each other.

I suspect that as you look back at your years at The Valley, you will quickly realize that it has gone by so fast, that you learned and grew so much, that you made lasting friendships, and, if LVC history is any guide, several of you will have met your spouse while studying here too. I hope that these have also been happy years that you would readily do all over again. I am confident that you will continue to be true lifelong learners.

While your time at The Valley has been short, please know that you had a lasting impact on our community through your contributions in the classroom, work with faculty in research or independent study, involvement with some of the many service and volunteer opportunities offered by the College, and, for some of you, through your time competing as student-athletes.

These ceremonies are more often known as Commencement since they signify the start of the next phase of your life. I hope that once you leave LVC, you will continue to make the world a better place through your thoughts and actions and build upon what you have learned as a student. You enter the workforce at what I am convinced is a time of great change that COVID has only been accelerated. I am an optimist and remain optimistic about the future because of what you have accomplished so far and what I anticipate you will achieve in your lives.

All of us at the College admire your passion, character, and commitment. We will miss you but are excited to learn about all that you will accomplish. As the newest alumni of the College, I ask just one more thing—that you keep us informed of your successes and triumphs. Come back to visit us often. Hopefully, this will be when we no longer need to wear masks and have six feet of separation! I wish you every success and happiness.

And now, please pardon me as I take a quick picture of my first LVC Commencement.

Thank you, and Go Valley!


Dr. James M. MacLaren
President, Lebanon Valley College

Convocation 2020

Aug. 20, 2020  

Good morning I’m James MacLaren, the 19th president of Lebanon Valley College. I took on this role on July 1 this year, and so have much in common with the Class of 2024. Like you, I was drawn to the College by the exceptional nature of the LVC education and the dedicated and talented faculty and staff who make up College’s lifeblood. So, on behalf of all of the faculty, staff, and your fellow students, we are delighted to welcome you to LVC. You join a family at LVC, and as a family, we support and care for one another—something that is all the more important today.

We all wish that we could hold our traditional convocation to welcome all our new students and their families in one unified ceremony and in person. Still, like so many casualties of the coronavirus, we are reworking this ceremony to ensure a safe and meaningful event.    

You are more than 450 truly accomplished students who we could get to know through visits to your high schools, many emails and texts, college fairs, and when you chose to visit our beautiful campus. You were selected because of your talents that we believe will enhance and enrich our community in so many ways.    

As a cohort, you come from 15 states. We are also delighted to welcome international students hailing from Canada, the Ukraine, and Vietnam. The Class of 2024 is the most diverse in the College’s history, with roughly 20% of our incoming students from traditionally underrepresented groups.  

In the Class of 2024, we have at least seven students whose parents are both LVC graduates, and someone with 10,000 YouTube followers. So many of you have volunteered in your communities, and one, in particular, has volunteered with a non-profit that brings dogs from animal shelters and then pairs them with inmates in local prisons. The inmates train the dogs for permanent rehoming. Others in the class have gone on mission trips and bettered their communities through their efforts. Several of you were top in your high school class, and others received numerous awards for their academic accomplishments and athletic achievements.  

The whole LVC community has been anxiously awaiting and planning for this day that starts the fall semester. Despite the significant challenges regionally and nationally resulting from the novel coronavirus, we see optimism and hope for the future. In your applications and communications with the College we learned about your resilience, optimism, and enthusiasm for starting college. We are hopeful too, that with social distancing, masks, and personal hygiene—and, to be honest, who ever washed their hands for a full 20 seconds before COVID-19?—that we will be able to complete the fall semester in residence.    

Faculty have worked hard during the summer to redesign classes and labs to this new normal of face to face, hybrid, and some online instruction. Staff have made sure that our campus provides for a socially distanced learning environment in all our campus buildings and classrooms.

Most of you were born in 2002. AOL was the most popular website that year, and it took more than 10 minutes to download a song. Forget about streaming a movie! The browser Firefox was launched. Though some things seem not to change: The New England Patriots were Super Bowl champions, and CSI was one of the most popular shows on TV. The Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, and Star Wars Episode II were the three top-grossing films. The first cell phone with a built-in camera was also introduced—quite a year.  

As you start your academic journey at the College, my charge is to take full advantage of all we offer. For it is these experiences that characterize the holistic and transformative LVC education. You will experience engaging classes and professors; class sizes will be small, and professors will get to know and mentor our students. Explore academic areas that you haven’t experienced in high school, for it is the breadth of learning that is the foundation of a liberal education that will serve you so well in your life after college. And speaking of life after college, our Breen Center for Graduate Success will start working with you even as first-year students. The welcoming and encouraging Breen staff will help you see connections between your academic and co-curricular experiences and post-graduation opportunities and assist with all-important internships. College is also the time you will make many of your lifelong friends and connections and, in some cases, spouses. I know there is some anxiety and nervousness: trust me, that will quickly pass as you make new friends and get involved on campus. You will have fun as you learn and grow.    

Each of you is now faced with great opportunities and challenges. Today, you join our community because you decided to grasp those opportunities and rise to those challenges and to use your talents to make your dreams a reality. We expect much from you. We know that you can... and we know that you will succeed. Please know that we are here to foster that success.  

Therefore, it is with pride, and this in mind that I turn you over to my colleagues, the faculty.    

The faculty will demand much of you—and you, in turn, will demand much of yourselves.    

I know you will exceed their expectations of you since that is what LVC students do.  

Congratulations. And welcome to Lebanon Valley College—from where I am standing, the best College in America.  

Dr. James M. MacLaren
President, Lebanon Valley College

Vigil Against Violence

Sept. 8, 2020

Good morning and thank you for coming to today’s vigil as our community comes together to stand against violence, racism, and injustice.

Our charge today is not only to come together as a community but to start the hard work of making change at LVC. To make LVC more welcoming and inclusive as a college to all seeking an education. To make LVC more welcoming and inclusive as a college to those working here.

The first amendment allows citizens to express opinions and protest, and on college campuses, we also cherish academic freedom to protect free speech on campuses. These principles are foundational to our way of life, our democracy, and our system of higher education. Yet often, we have seen that exercising these rights has sparked violence. We condemn acts of violence and destruction of property.  

If we are to move forward as a community, we need to show respect to one another when we disagree, reject intolerance and hate, to listen more, speak less, show empathy, and to stand up to injustices when we see them.

What actions can we take?

We can educate ourselves better so that we can understand the perspectives of others. LVC has curated a library of resources for self-study and programs planned throughout the year. See the #LVC4Change pages on our website. We will strive to be an anti-racist institution, and our faculty made this the focus of the start of their semester retreat. Our learning community is built on inclusion and fairness, on the assurance that every person will be treated with dignity, recognized for their abilities, supported in their efforts, and acknowledged for their accomplishments. We intentionally embrace the differences among human beings.

We need to strive for equity and social justice.

In a democracy, we have the power of the ballot box. Never feel that your vote doesn’t matter.  In the last presidential election, more eligible voters chose not to vote than voted for either candidate. If you have not done so, please register to vote. Take the time to learn about the candidates’ positions. Be an informed voter and exercise that right. And when you have concerns, take the time to contact your elected officials. They do listen to their constituents.  Change requires action. Change also requires hope. Please, always remain hopeful. Hopeful in the power of community. Hopeful in the power of kindness. Hopeful for a renewed faith in humanity.    

Thank you,  
Dr. James M. MacLaren
President, Lebanon Valley College