The Founding of Lehigh

By the 1860s, thanks to the success of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, railroad baron Asa Packer was a very rich man. So, Packer decided to give back to the area where he had amassed his fortune. In 1864, he came up with the idea to start a technical college in the Lehigh Valley using $500,000 of his own money. Just a year later, Packer’s plan was well underway. He quickly established a board of trustees, began construction on a new building in South Bethlehem, and hired Henry Coppée, an engineer, writer, and professor, to be the college’s first president. Lehigh University opened on September 1, 1866, with thirty-nine students.