Honoring and Building Tradition at Lehigh

“Sesqui-tizing” and Other Tools of the Trade

Bringing a coherent, strategic focus to dozens of related, but very different, events to usher in a new era of greatness at Lehigh.

A presidential introductory tour and installation, a sesquicentennial celebration, and the 150th playing of the longest-running college football rivalry in the U.S. Any one of those landmark efforts would tax the resources of a university advancement team. Lehigh University needed to execute all three in an 18-month period.

In the lead-up to this trifecta of institutional challenges, Lehigh engaged Educe to  conduct an advancement event assessment. Our charge: to help them improve ROI on events, focus messaging, and tweak execution. While attending key events, we also considered how Lehigh could “sesqui-tize” its activities during the University’s 150th anniversary year. Then we worked with the Lehigh team to put those plans to work.

“By elevating annual signature events to a new level, you’re building emotional capital that helps set the stage for the next chapter of engagement.”

Sarah Winkler, Managing Principal

It started with The Rivalry. We helped Lehigh University navigate the 150th anniversary of the most-played football rivalry in the country, and the longest uninterrupted college football rivalry of all time.

This historic game between the Lehigh Mountain Hawks and the Lafayette College Leopards was played at Yankee Stadium in New York City—a daunting venue—and broadcast live on national television.

Activities for Rivalry weekend included ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, a choral concert at Carnegie Hall, a communal pep rally, and a high-energy party at Terminal 5 featuring Earth, Wind & Fire.

Through strategic branding, event design that leveraged authentic Lehigh touches, and world-class talent these high-profile events built significant buzz, helped to re-engage alumni, and raised Lehigh’s visibility nationally.

The presidential introductory tour and his installation at the start of the University’s sesquicentennial year was the next opportunity to put the focus on Lehigh’s 150 years of accomplishment. Then the “sesqui-tizing” of Lehigh events really got underway. Sarah Winkler, Educe Managing Principal and project lead for Lehigh, was pleased that the University team “really got it. They became very strong advocates for elevating their standard annual events to a new level.” As a result of their diligence, events throughout the year incorporated sesquicentennial visual branding, and sesqui messaging was integrated into programming.

The sesquicentennial year culminated with Alumni Weekend, which featured reunion class dinners and an all-Lehigh celebration, complete with smart-fun activities, interaction with current students and their research, and fireworks over South Mountain.

Looking back on the year’s activities, Sarah reflects on the strategy that made it all possible. “We often talk about ‘sesqui-tizing’ annual events, recognizing opportunities to use the things we’re already doing each year to prime new audiences—from homecoming to giving society events, alumni weekend, the typical signature annual events. By elevating these events, you’re building emotional capital that helps set the stage for the next chapter of engagement.”