|Alma Mater:||Franklin & Marshall '68|
A $5 million gift from prominent geologist David Lehman ’68 in the fall of 2014, endowed Franklin & Marshall College's standout, NCAA Division I wrestling program for generations of student-athletes to come.
The gift, establishing the "David H. Lehman Endowed Wrestling Program Fund," fully endowed wrestling program operations, including funding for existing personnel, equipment, competitions, and ongoing recruitment of student-athletes. The College hosts one of only 11 Division I wrestling programs at liberal arts colleges -- including military academies – nationwide.
In honor of Dave Lehman's gift, the College renamed the popular F&M Open wrestling tournament that annually attracts nearly 400 collegiate wrestlers from nationally prominent wrestling programs. The F&M Open's participants have included Princeton, American, Bucknell and Drexel universities, as well as the U.S. Army and Navy academies. The tournament was renamed the David H. Lehman F&M Open.
Coinciding with the Lehman F&M Open, the College hosts annual dinners featuring a prominent speaker. The dinners are intended to enhance connections between the F&M wrestling program and the broader high school and college wrestling communities.
Lehman, the president and CEO of Denver-based DJ Resources, was on the wrestling team for all four of his years at F&M. A current trustee of the College, he also has long shown a commitment to supporting F&M's academic strength through building partnerships between the geosciences program and industry. College President Daniel R. Porterfield said Lehman's ongoing contributions inspire pride in the legacy of the student-athlete experience at F&M.
The endowment created by the Lehman Fund provides, in perpetuity, annual support designed to sustain and enhance the wrestling program and its national prominence. Lehman said this is important for any higher education institution in an era of increased overall competitiveness for academically talented students.
"The College has a long tradition of having an excellent wrestling program, competing against schools like Columbia, Temple, Bucknell, Penn …,"said Lehman, who wrestled against these schools on an undefeated freshman team as a student. "I've always been proud that F&M Wrestling competes in Division I, and so it's not like bringing excellence in wrestling to F&M is anything new. But sustaining some distinctive things that we do well on a national scale is just great for the College."
Head Wrestling Coach Mike Rogers said the Lehman Fund likely puts Franklin & Marshall Wrestling in a small class of programs that are endowed. "This comes at a time when a lot of programs across the country are struggling, but F&M's program is thriving and doing very well."
Raised on a farm in Pennsylvania's southern Lancaster County, Lehman found his way to F&M from rural Solanco High School after his high school wrestling coach set up a meeting on campus with F&M's Coach Roy Phillips, a 1934 alumnus and F&M's head wrestling coach from 1949 to 1967. Lehman's high school coach had wrestled for Phillips.
"I could not have imagined starting on a better course for my career and my life than how I started at F&M," Lehman said. "There were so many opportunities that my education opened up for me. I really can't put in monetary terms what that's worth."
Lehman graduated with a degree in geology from the department now called Earth and Environment at F&M, and after graduation served as a non-commissioned Army officer in Vietnam. Later, after earning a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Texas at Austin, he was a geologist for ExxonMobil for 28 years, and ultimately founded several companies focused on oil and gas exploration and development.
Neither of Lehman's parents had attended college, and when he began his first year at F&M in 1964, he felt like he had "won the lottery."
"I was encouraged to take a geology course, and I found my profession," Lehman said. "And then on the freshman wrestling team, it was the greatest camaraderie on any team I had ever seen, so I just loved the student-athlete experience."
Lehman, who maintains residences in Houston and Denver with his wife of 35 years, Patsy -- and whose daughter, Lisa Lehman, graduated from F&M in 2001 and brother, Roy Lehman II, M.D., in 1969 -- remains a frequent visitor to campus. He said he will continue attending wrestling matches as a fan of the team while serving the College in other ways.
Among his many volunteer contributions to F&M, Lehman earned the Alumni Medal for service to the College; was a founding member of the Diplomat Athletic Club athletic volunteers organization; and was appointed to the Board of Trustees in July 2013, serving on the enrollment, student life and technology committees.