By Margaret Wilson

Lois and Neil Gagnon are pictured standing in front of a blue backdrop. They are both smiling and wearing lapel pins.

Lois and Neil Gagnon P’96 have played a significant role in shaping Gateway Career Center and the services it provides for students.

Neil Gagnon P’96 has seen a lot of colleges–with three children and 19 grandchildren, he considers the opportunity to visit schools across the country a “real treat.” 

Gagnon visited a laundry list of colleges with his daughter, Amy Gagnon Hendershot ’96, in the early 1990s. However, once the pair arrived at Lafayette College in Gagnon’s Corvette convertible, the road trip was officially over. 

“[Amy] came back and said, ‘Lafayette, only school, early decision, I’m done,’” Gagnon says. “She was set on it. I said, ‘Fine, go get it.’” 

Watching their daughter have a wonderful experience at Lafayette, and a conversation with then-president Arthur Rothkopf, inspired Gagnon and his wife, Lois, to start a new chapter: supporting Lafayette. 

“I said, ‘You know, Art, you have a wonderful school. The teachers are great, the campus is good,’” Gagnon says. But in his estimation, the one thing that needed improvement was the College’s career services. 

The Gagnons offered to commit support to expanding career services, and the initiative took off from there. Gagnon was eventually invited to become a Trustee, cementing this relationship with Lafayette long past his daughter’s graduation. 

Today, the Gagnons’ generosity has had a significant role in shaping Gateway Career Center, which works to support students in networking with alumni, preparing for the job search, developing career skills, and planning their postgraduate life.   

“Every year or so, my wife and I meet with half a dozen or so [Gateway] students to hear what they’ve done, what they’ve accomplished, and where they’re going,” Gagnon says. “Quite honestly, that’s thrilling. We love to hear the students’ experiences and what’s being done.” 

The Gagnons’ influence can be felt throughout the College’s career center through their long- standing support for early career experiences, including an endowment for Gateway’s programming. Outstanding alumni may also receive the Lois and Neil Gagnon Award for Distinguished Service, recognizing a Lafayette alumnus for service in assisting students in their career exploration. To Mike Summers, associate vice president of Gateway Career Center, the Gagnons’ support is indispensable. 

“Lois and Neil’s impact on students and their success is extraordinary. Their philanthropy has allowed the Gateway Career Center to assist students in a variety of areas: internships, career tracks, graduate school program applications, and externships, to name a few,” Summers says. “It has also contributed toward our efforts to scale the work we do to benefit more students. Their generosity is being felt in many ways, and we are so grateful for their support of Lafayette students.”

The Gagnons also particularly appreciate the mix of liberal arts and engineering education at Lafayette, which Gagnon describes as “valuable.” As a result, their philanthropy extends throughout the College, from the Gagnon Lecture Hall in Hugel Science Center to substantial support for the annual fund and the Rothkopf Endowment for Art History. 

According to Gagnon, the Lafayette alumni and students he’s met stand out in a crowded field. “If you look at the accomplishments of many Lafayette grads, entrepreneurship,” an ethic Gagnon values highly, “really shows through.”

Whether it’s building entrepreneurial skills, preparing students for a career, or supporting academic growth, the Gagnons consider Lafayette a positive force in many peoples’ lives. “My wife and I want to support educational development and things that help a community,” Gagnon says. To their family, Lafayette is one of those things.

As students prepare for their postgraduate lives each Commencement season, their future is up to them. However, through the generosity of the Gagnon family and their support of resources like Gateway Career Center, graduates can feel confident that Lafayette has set them up for success.

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