Board Honors Former President and Announces Science Center Plans

Joe Lapp portrait
The portrait of EMU’s seventh president, Joseph L. Lapp, who served 1987-03. Photo by Jim Bishop

Former EMU president Joseph L. Lapp and his wife, Hannah Mack Lapp, returned to EMU Friday evening, June 23, to see the unveiling of his official presidential portrait. The Lapp portrait will be displayed in the President’s Room on third floor of Hartzler Library, joining those of the previous six presidents since EMU was founded in 1917.

In his remarks prior to the unveiling, current president Loren Swartzendruber credited Lapp with the strength of EMU today.

Swartzendruber noted that his predecessor moved EMU from being an institution serving mainly undergraduates to being a university with five rapidly-growing graduate programs, a growing endowment, several major new facilities, and a peace program – the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding – that is becoming known around the world since its founding 13 years ago.

Swartzendruber’s wife, Pat, credited Hannah Lapp with making hospitality a byword of EMU, with the president’s home as “one of the most welcoming centers in the university community.”

Lapp, a 1966 EMU graduate, completed 30 years of involvement with EMU on June 30, 2003 – first as a trustee, then as chair of the board and finally serving four terms (16 years) as president. He is now serving as a trust/investment advisor and Mennonite Foundation representative with the Harrisonburg office of Mennonite Mutual Aid.

Lapp was visibly moved by the presence of 130 of his friends, family members and former colleagues at a dinner preceding the unveiling of the portrait. EMU’s current board of trustees was present, along with many former trustee members.

Joe and Hannah Lapp
Sam Jones, architect with LeRoy Troyer and Associates, offers well wishes to Joseph and Hannah Lapp at the board of trustees portrait unveiling dinner. Photo by Emily Huffman

In remarks after the unveiling, Lapp spoke of wondering if he could measure up to his illustrious predecessors. He expressed gratitude that three of them, John R. Mumaw, Myron S. Augsburger, and Richard C. Detweiler, were alive and able to act as advisers when he took office in 1987.

Update from the Board

In the closing session of their quarterly meeting, the trustees gave their blessings to a preliminary plan, carrying a pricetag of approximately $30 million, to add a wing to the existing Suter Science Center building on Park Road, while renovating the 1960s-era section of the building.

“This is a priority project,”said Swartzendruber. “It is necessary if EMU is to continue to attract and produce top-quality science and health-science majors, including pre-med students who enjoy astonishing rates of acceptance into medical school upon graduation.” For the last two years, 100% of the students who successfully completed EMU’s pre-med requirements were accepted into medical schools in the United States.

The building plans hinge, however, on securing “lead gifts” from donors to cover 75 percent of the cost of the project.

The board also authorized the formation of a task force to consider sprucing up the residence halls, making them more attractive for first-year students in particular. Ken L. Nafziger, vice president for student life, noted that many students today are willing to pay a premium for upgraded residences.

Renovations to the residence halls would be done through the university issuing bonds and taking on debt, though Swartzendruber cautioned: “I’m not comfortable borrowing to the hilt of our capacity.”

The board next meets Nov. 9 and 10, 2007.