Bethlehem philanthropist gives $2.5M to new Lehigh University institute dedicated to social justice
A Bethlehem-born local philanthropist and contractor donated $ 2.5 million to establish a Lehigh University institute devoted to social justice.
Charles Marcon, an executive at Duggan & Marcon in Allentown, encouraged the university to establish the Marcon Institute, which is dedicated to research and study that influences perspectives, practices and guidelines on racial justice. The main activity of the institute will be to prepare and deploy students – known as “Marcon Fellows” – to work with partners in the community to bring about changes in the area of social justice and anti-racist issues, according to representatives of the university.
Marcon’s interest in promoting racial justice began with his amateur sports career building relationships while playing alongside black teammates as one of the few white players on the Bethlehem Giants baseball team in high school and serving as a U.S. Army officer on the basketball team.
Racial discrimination and equality became even more personal for Marcon as the grandfather of four biracial grandchildren.
“It got me thinking about these issues and what I could do about them,” Marcon said in a statement. “It’s easy to see them globally or nationally, but a person with limited resources will have no impact at that level. But I could certainly have an impact on site. “
Marcon, who graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina, was looking for ways to address racial issues in the Lehigh Valley and was determined to find a college or university to ensure both wide-ranging impact and guaranteed sustainability that he was looking for. He has previous relationships with Lehigh University as a benefactor and contractor as well as personally, with Mrs. Ruth and Sister Martha being Alumnae. Martha was also a member of the Board of Trustees from 1995 to 2001.
Marcon discussed his vision at various meetings with Donald Outing, Vice President of the University for Justice and Community. He also attended the keynote lecture by historian and author Ibram X. Kendi on Martin Luther Ling on anti-racism at the university in October 2019.
Marcon and university officials met with Kendi to learn more about what he was doing at American University in Washington, DC
“I think this solidified Charlie’s ideas when he thought, ‘Can we do this here at Lehigh?'” Outing said. “Could Lehigh be the role model driving the work to combat systemic racism within organizations, within our society?” within our culture? “
Marcon accelerated its plans after the death of US Representative John Lewis in July 2020 and the national racial movements resulting in the creation of the Marcon Institute. The search for a director is now beginning and the first “Marcon Fellows” will be identified based on nominations from faculties and staff who are currently supporting work in the field of racial justice.
The director will set up a study and engagement program for community issues related to race and justice, the university said. Future Marcon Fellows, Marcon said, will be “conscientious, thoughtful, caring” people who are genuinely passionate about social justice.
“I hope that you and the institute can create a voice that is heard far beyond our community to highlight and eliminate racial injustices,” said Marcon.
John D. Simon, president of Lehigh University, said Marcon’s gift and the institute would nurture a new generation of students who are lifelong advocacy advocates and have a positive impact on the lives of people in Lehigh Valley and beyond.
“Students are passionate about social justice, and the Marcon Institute is an important opportunity for them to get involved and influence and do things that make a difference in our community. It will impact both your student experience and your post-Lehigh life, ”said Nathan Urban, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “It will enable Lehigh to be a catalyst for promoting social justice in the region and to prepare students to be agents for change.”
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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann can be reached at [email protected]