The Life Of : President John Lahey

Erin Miller

The Big Cheese. The Head Honcho. The mysterious man who, like a rare bird is seen once in a blue moon on campus. We all know his name, but what do we know about President John Lahey?

Well, for one thing – he started out just like us as an undergraduate student at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio.

“I got my Bachelors in Philosophy in Dayton, I stayed on to pursue my masters,” Lahey said.

He also went on to earn two other degrees, a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Miami, and a Masters in administration from Columbia University.

A major in philosophy sounds off, considering he is now an administrator at a University.

“I never dreamed of this (being president). I was gonna be a philosopher. I thought it would be, in the history of philosophy, Aristotle, Plato and Lahey,” he said.

How did Lahey go from philosophizing to running the show? It was during his first job teaching at St. Bernards College in Alabama that he realized a change in careers may be on the horizon.

“I was teaching in Alabama and thought I might spend my life in Alabama, and I decided at that point I would probably go into administration which would allow me to teach, and get back to the Northeast,” he said.

He was not alone in Alabama. Lahey’s wife was by his side. When asked of her, a smile grew on his face as he said, “I met her when I was a junior in college on a blind date in January of 1966. We got married two years later. I had one year of graduate school under my belt.” He continued, “A mutual friend fixed us up, so it wasn’t totally a blind date.”

Lahey and his wife have two children. When asked if he would send his kids to Quinnipiac, he chuckled and responded, “They had the opportunity. One went to Wesleyan and one went to George Washington. They could have gone here for free but they wanted to get away from their father, which was probably a good thing.”

It was 21 years ago when Lahey came to Quinnipiac to be president. But what exactly does he do, one might ask?

A look at his busy schedule provided an insight to his job. In a two-week period the president traveled to Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, New York City and Massachusetts. It would safe to say he does not spend too much time in his sparsely decorated yet spacious office. Meetings seem to be his main objective on his itinerary.

“To logically break down what I do, it can be put into two categories: internal and external. The internal activities I do consist of meetings with Quinnipiac faculty, students and administration. External activities deal with donors, supporters, trustees and community leaders,” said Lahey of his objectives on his itinerary.

Lahey is also a member of boards outside of the Quinnipiac community including the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and United Illuminating.

As with any individual, President Lahey enjoys other activities for fun. When asked what his favorite sports team was he enthusiastically replied, “Oh, Quinnipiac. Quinnipiac teams.” He continued, “and for professional, probably basketball and golf.”

However, golf professionals can relax as they don’t have to worry about competition from Lahey. When asked if he plays golf, he laughed and admitted, “Not very well.”

Just like the rest of us the president has had some embarrassing moments as well. He recalled, “I was on WQAQ and they asked me whether I wore boxers or briefs. I couldn’t see my face but I declined to answer. That was pretty embarrassing.”

Embarrassments aside, Lahey cannot seem to escape the limelight considering his job title. Is it possible he may have a desire to add another spotlight to the equation?

“If I could take one course about anything. Gee, I don’t know. It would probably be something in the theater program. Crystal Brian runs a great program; I’d like to take one of her classes,” he said after much thought.

As far as favorites go, Lahey admitted his favorite foods as being, “anything Italian,” and for a glimpse into his political philosophy, he said his favorite president was probably John F. Kennedy.

After sharing parts of his personal life, he was asked if he wished to express to the student body any personal thoughts or facts he would like them to know to possibly clear up some misconceptions.

“I don’t think so. You know students are here for a relatively short period of time, so it’s hard for me to know what people’s perceptions are,” Lahey said. “One thing about a university is every four years you have an entirely new student body.”

He continued, “But, I think of our alumni as students, as a kind of continuum. I’m always amazed at how great they do when they come back.”

All students who graduate QU and become alumni certainly have one thing in common, they receive their diploma. Lahey admitted to something not many people would know about a tradition he has continued during his 21 years as president.

“I have signed about 25,000 diplomas personally,” he said. “Most presidents use some stamp thing. Students and parents spend over $100,000 and blood, sweat and tears. The least I could do is sign their diploma.”

With his diploma signing, meetings, dinners, appearances and travelling- President Lahey is a busy man who works hard at pushing Quinnipiac to the best it can be.

Lahey also has laid out goals for his term as QU’s president.

“An improved sense of community. I want faculty, staff and students to want to come and be challenged by Quinnipiac and find it to be a desirable place to work,” Lahey said.

He also expressed his strong desire to improve diversity among the campus.

“Even a beautiful campus like this could be a very cold place with the wrong kind of people.”

Lahey continued, “When I look back, I just want the faculty, staff and students to work together, to learn.”