Leaving Lehigh University

It is with great sadness that I share the news of my departure from Lehigh University as Director of Arts Engagement and Community Cultural Affairs.

The reason for my departure is budgetary. Funding priorities did not include continuing the position I currently hold. This does not mean that there is not a priority for the arts or campus-community engagement. Things are just shifting; as things tend to do in higher education.

The reason for this post is that I always have practiced transparency and authenticity in my work. I’ll not shy away from the sadness of losing a position. Understanding that being near me may cause an awkward moment, or not knowing what to say, I would still appreciate a moment of your time to wish me well and to share a memory of our work together.

"I gave [them] my heart, [they] gave me a pen} ~Lloyd Dobler from "Say Anything" (1989)
“I gave [them] my heart, [they] gave me a pen” ~Lloyd Dobler from “Say Anything” (1989)
My kids often complain that everywhere we go, I always stop to talk to someone. “Do you know everybody, Mom?” I usually respond with, “A good life is one filled with friends.” There are too many people in various community networks; local businesses, artists, cultural organizations, schools, etc., to try to reach directly in a short period of time.

This budgetary decision offers a conversation about shared responsibility in supporting ALL of the arts on campus and our local arts district. We have a great place to live and work because so many great things are available. What makes creative placemaking work isn’t just that venues, festivals, etc. exists. We must recognize a duty to support art making in all its forms. Put a value on the arts not just with dollars, but with your time.

I have spent the last eleven years of my career working to promote the arts, living and learning at Lehigh. In that work, I have brought many Lehigh arts initiatives into the community and extended the community into Lehigh to experience art. A few examples are ArtsFest in 2006, sculptural installations in storefront windows, and integrating my Entreprenership course into the Spring on the SouthSide festival. It has been a thrill to facilitate creative ideas with great consideration toward risk management. Boy, do I have some stories! I also worked very hard to bring our local schools onto our campus; Monday matinee capacity audiences at Zoellner, bringing Girl Scouts onto campus to tour the Wilbur Powerhouse, and inviting many high school students I met by attending multiple area musical theater productions to Lehigh to explore our campus.

I encourage all readers to consider the time they put into supporting the arts on campus. Do you invest time finding out what is going on? Do you attend arts that aren’t an obligation to your course work or research? Do you choose to know more about the people and inspiration behind the arts; the various disciplines, the people who do it, teach it, and live it?

I don’t know what will be next in my career. Tonight, I’ll be performing in my last orchestra concert at Zoellner. It will be tough to get through the last measures of Berlioz, but I’ll be surrounded by incredibly talented students and community players. If you feel so inclined, please come.

I’m proud of the work I did at Lehigh. Navigating institutional frameworks; identifying needs and finding creative solutions meant putting as much faith as sweat into each effort. I took advantage of every opportunity to learn more and to promote the arts. I’m grateful for the champions that have supported my work.

I am excited about what lies ahead for me.

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5 thoughts on “Leaving Lehigh University

  1. Silagh,

    I was saddened by your notice that I saw on Facebook. Saddened because of your having to make a change that you didn’t intend, and saddened by the recognition that I had not seen you in quite some time.

    As you go through this transition if I can be of any help, please let me know. I would love to get together with you and just talk and catch up, but I’m aware that this transition may require other priorities.

    Just remember that I, like many others, benefited from, and appreciated, the contributions you make to the community.

    Personal regards – Ed Yarrish

  2. The loss is Lehigh’s. The next venue in your life experience will be very fortunate to have you… Stay well and God Bless. You will be missed by all whose lives you have touched with your passion and commitment.
    Denise Stangl

  3. Silagh
    Thank you so much for being a true connection to Lehigh University and the city of Bethlehem. Your work has had a real impact on the quality of life of the city. Be proud of what you have accomplished and know that you will find another way to do good things.
    John Callahan

  4. It took me a couple of days to read this. I do not want to face the truth that my friend(s) are probably going to be moving away fron me.
    I know that I am a much better person for having met Dr. White on twitter it truly is a moment I will remember as if it were yesterday.
    Thank you my friend for all you are and for all you do and for all you are yet to do to make this world better.
    I am a very lucky man to have become your friend.
    Thank you!

  5. Silagh –
    Brava! All your good work, your talents, your experience, and your sense of justice will carry you forward to become even more brilliant, dedicated, and helpful in another venue. To everything, turn….
    Thank you for all you’ve done for so many of us!
    all peace –
    ~j

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