Leadership gift supports student access and opportunity for undergraduates at Lehigh

Kenneth French ’75 was a talented high school student from the suburbs of Buffalo, New York, looking for a great engineering school. Offered competitive financial aid packages from several universities, he knew he needed to maximize his scholarship potential to be able to attend a top-tier institution. Lehigh gave him the opportunity he needed, and he said the experience impacted his life tremendously. To give others the same chance, Ken and his wife, Vickie, have made a $5 million endowed gift to Lehigh to increase scholarships for students with demonstrated financial need.

“I am repaying a debt. That’s the way I think of it. The school was very generous,” said French, the Roth Family Distinguished Professor of Finance at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. “I could not have gone to a school of Lehigh’s caliber without somebody stepping up and saying, ‘OK, we will pay for this.’”

The Kenneth R. French ’75 and Vickie A. French Endowed Scholarship Fund supports student access and opportunity, which is the top priority of GO: The Campaign for Lehigh. Through the Frenches’ generosity, five students per year will receive scholarships for all four years of their undergraduate study. Preference will be given to first-generation college students who are underrepresented in the undergraduate student body. Ultimately, 20 talented students annually will be awarded scholarships to receive a Lehigh education and will be known as the French Scholars.

“Ken and Vickie have shown their commitment to creating a diverse, vibrant community of the most talented students. We are in deep appreciation for their leadership gift that secures permanent and lasting resources to scholarship and financial aid,” said President John Simon ’19P. “By providing these resources, they are preparing the next generation to lead lives of consequence.”

As a mechanical engineering major at Lehigh, French said he learned how to think analytically and critically—a foundation that has served him throughout his career. After Lehigh, he did machine design at Eastman Kodak and then went back to school for an MBA at the University of Rochester. With the help of scholarships financing most of his graduate education, he went on to earn a Master of Science and a doctorate in finance at Rochester.

A renowned economist and researcher and well-respected academic, French was quoted in a 2014 article in The Wall Street Journal as saying it would be hard to beat the return from his investment in education from Lehigh and Rochester and that it will “take a lifetime to repay the donors” who financed his education. Vickie, who met Ken while earning her bachelor’s degree in business at Moravian College, said the scholarship will allow more students to not have to worry about financing their Lehigh education.

Read the full story in the Lehigh University News Center.

Story by Dawn Thren ’21P

Kenneth R. French ’75 and Vickie A. French

Vickie and Kenneth French ’75 have made a $5 million endowed gift to Lehigh to increase scholarships for students with demonstrated financial need. (Photo by Jon Gilbert Fox)