November 22 was a remarkable day for Lafayette College. We did not simply win a football game—we stepped out of Easton onto a national stage, and showed that we were ready to inhabit that larger space. The enormous scale of the venue, Yankee Stadium, turned out to be the right size for our ambitions, and the energy of so much passion for Lafayette gathered in one place was enough to light up the Empire State Building.
Behind that big venue and big story, however, were a lot of smaller stories and behind the scenes work that made this occasion possible.
From the very beginning, we were determined that the Rivalry would be an occasion to celebrate, not just Lafayette, but the ideals of sportsmanship and collaboration that distinguish the Patriot League. As this was our “home” game, it was up to us to plan a halftime show, and we chose to involve not only our own Pep Band, cheerleaders, choir, dance team, and step team, but also their counterparts at Lehigh as well. While this was challenging to plan, our students enjoyed meeting and practicing with the Lehigh students, and the resulting show spoke volumes about the nature of the Rivalry. The spectacle of 300+ students from both schools performing “New York, New York,” with a kickline that stretched across the entire field, was an unprecedented and moving sight.
The special nature of our competitive partnership with Lehigh was also evident in the Annual Fund Challenge, a yearly fundraising effort that culminates in a head-to-head competition the day of the Lafayette-Lehigh game. This year, the Leopard and the Mountain Hawk were featured in a series of short videos in which the mascots competed humorously in a variety of activities, racing each other through the streets of New York before ending up at the finish line in Yankee Stadium. As we neared the end of the deadline on Saturday, I stood in the stands at Yankee Stadium talking with our Annual Fund director. I was astonished when she told me that the last few pledges had been texted in by members of the football team, from the locker room, just before they took the field. Winning the challenge was truly a team effort.
These examples remind us that competition and collaboration are two sides of the same coin. Competition spurs our students to greater levels of achievement. At the same time, collaboration—learning to recognize, respect, and benefit from the accomplishments of others—is a critical skill that students will take with them when they leave Lafayette. I could not be more proud of the way in which our students excelled in both of these areas last month. That, as much as the team’s 27-7 win, was the real victory.