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EASTON, PA. (April 1, 2018)—In a bold move that ends a centuries-old rivalry, the trustee boards of Lafayette College and Lehigh University have agreed to merge the two educational institutions.
Talks began following an off-handed comment at Yankee Stadium between trustees at the 150th meeting of the most-played football rivalry in the country. In various stages of development since that dominant Lafayette win, merger talks evolved more rapidly over the last year.
The synergy between two well-regarded schools makes this an exciting opportunity. Both share a ranked engineering curriculum, a strong liberal arts base, an athletic conference, and robust endowments.
The boards have agreed that the new institution will be called Laf-High. The colors will be updated to new shades. Lafayette conceded its cherished maroon in order to get Lehigh to give up its dutiful brown. Laf-High will now don a more relatable, yet upscale red and khaki. The mascot, another hybrid, will be the mythical spotted griffin, combining the leopard’s majestic head and torso with a bird’s wings and feet.
“Lafayette is excited about what it can bring to this relationship and what it can receive in return,” says President Alison Byerly. She noted that because Lafayette is in the process of expanding its enrollment, running a shuttle between Easton and Bethlehem would allow Lafayette to take advantage of real estate there. One plan under consideration is razing the dilapidated Goodman Stadium in order to build new Lafayette residence halls on the site.
The Lafayette residential experience called Connected Communities will be extended into the new institution. As a part of Connected Communities, new first-year students are assigned to one of five Commons, each named after one of the Marquis de Lafayette’s ships. Lehigh students will draw from popular culture and history, with Commons named S.S. Minnow, Poseidon, and Titanic.
During due diligence, Laf-High will introduce colleagues to their departmental peers and begin to shape a new shared culture.
“We have history on our side and much to learn about local railroad operator Asa Packer and much to share about the American Revolution’s favorite fighting Frenchman,” says Byerly.
That history will come in handy as both presidents, who are eager to serve at the helm of Laf-High, have agreed to stage a duel to decide who will lead the new institution. Lehigh president John Simon will be armed with lumps of coal, while Byerly will wield the sword of the Marquis de Lafayette, currently used for ceremonial purposes at Convocation and Commencement. Oddsmakers are getting right to the point: The sword is a 9-1 favorite.
The long-standing Lafayette-Lehigh football game, the most-played football rivalry in the nation, will take place one last time next fall. No matter the victor, the record books will cement Lafayette with its current 78-70 winning record as the permanent champion. In the final game, the teams will play in their new matching uniforms, ensuring that both sides will look like winners despite the outcome of the game. Fans will be allowed to once again tear down the goal posts as they did decades ago.
“We need to begin to find ways to come together,” Byerly says. “It’s too bad that Lehigh will never be able to overcome its losing record in this long-standing contest.”