Lehigh University Sells Out to Happy-Meal Marketing

by MarenEliz

Lehigh University: great school, truly challenging & exceptional. However, it cheapened itself in 1997 when it dropped its traditional university seal in favor of a marketing logo.

History and tradition can sell

Harvard doesn't re-work its seal

I had the privilege to earn a graduate degree from Lehigh University in 1995.  The experience was so concurrently difficult and satisfying that it holds a place on my list of the top five events in my life.  As far as I am concerned, every dollar I gave Lehigh returned more than that in value.  To reiterate, it was an incredible learning experience.

When I attended Lehigh, the university seal was a football shape with a Latin motto.  As a former official publication describes, it included “a sun over a book on which a heart is superimposed. These fit nicely with the university motto, taken from Francis Bacon, which surround them: ‘Homo minister et interpres naturae.’ Loosely translated, the motto means, ’Man, the servant and interpreter of nature.’ "  Also within the seal were the words “Lehigh University” and “Founded by Asa Packer 1865.”  The sun emitted copious rays of light and the football was surrounded by detailed edging.  Everything “Lehigh” had this seal: sweatshirts, lampshades, notebook covers, and the entire gamut of college bookstore products.  I own a short-sleeved T-shirt with this seal.  It is the emblem of my Lehigh.

Bring Back the Classic Seal

Lehigh University Seal for over 100 years
Lehigh University Seal for over 100 y...
Maren Morgan


to whom?

However, in 1997 the University adopted a logo to serve as an additional visual emblem of the school.  Purportedly, it reproduces more easily in electronic media, thus meets a need.  However, I fear something more serious is afoot.  Just as fast food restaurants must continually research the pulse of consumers and adjust products and the presentations of those products, institutions of higher education are vendors which must adapt to the potential student market.  In its quest to recruit students, I fear that Lehigh University is abandoning appropriate tradition by employing a simplified graphic: a Happy Meal version of the elegant and historic seal.

Look through the university website.  Is the seal anywhere?  No longer are clothing, mugs, and memorabilia festooned with the pre-1997 seal, the only visual emblem at the time.  It has vanished.  As in the novel Fahrenheit 451, in which a fireman becomes someone who burns books rather than someone who extinguishes fires, history is being re-written.  Supposedly, the original seal will continue to be used on diplomas and important documents.  However, I ask why would a student who has known only the logo throughout his Lehigh career want the seal on his diploma? 

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

"Lehigh Land"
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Bethlehem (PA) (Images of America)

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Bring it back

I am not a marketing expert.  If the pundits feel that they can reach today’s eligible prospects only through use of a trendy logo, then so be it.  However, when an august research university agrees to reduce ALL of its visual symbols to something akin to a Nike ™ swoosh (which I imagine will need to changed frequently to follow the market), then someone has gotten it very wrong.

I say use the simple logo on the web pages and a few recruiting pamphlets, but also include the Lehigh University seal.  Continue to proudly employ the seal on banners, stationery, university publications and documents.  In the bookstore, offer garments and products with choices in both designs.  Coca-Cola admitted its error when it tried to replace traditional Coke with a new version.  Likewise, Lehigh University must offer the new and classic versions of the seal-logo in documents, clothing and merchandise.  It is bad enough to lose the team name of Engineers to the Mountain Hawk, but to lose the "football and Latin” seal is too much to bear.

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Updated: 02/08/2012, MarenEliz
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