Former King’s president honored by becoming an honor

June 9th, 2015 3:12 pm

First Posted: 7/24/2014

The Rev. James Lackenmier may have stepped down as King’s College president five years before the school launched its annual “McGowan Business Forum,” but he is about to become a permanent, and prominent, part of the yearly effort to connect business students with mentors in their chosen fields.

The college has created The Reverend James Lackenmier, C.S.C, Award for Achievement and Leadership, and Lackenmier— who spent 25 years at King’s, including serving as president from 1981 to 1999 —will be traveling from his balmy Florida residence to New York City next month when the inaugural award is handed out.

“I”m very flattered and honored,” Lackenmier said. “I’ve been away for 15 years, but King’s remains a part of my life.” Then after a pause and with a hint of mock disbelief in his voice, he added: “I do seem to be getting pulled back into it.”

Lackenmier, 76, currently serves as Superior for Holy Cross Community in Cocoa Beach, Florida (King’s was established and is run by the Holy Cross priests), which he describes as “a retirement community for 11 fathers and brothers.” Asked if that makes him the “chief retiree,” he doesn’t quite embrace the notion.

“I’m not confessing to being retired,” said the Catholic cleric who likely heard his share of confessions (a Catholic sacrament) in his 50 years of priesthood. “I do call it my half-speed life.”

The first Lackenmier Award will be bestowed upon Tim Morris, class of ’64. Lackenmier said he knows Morris, and praised his success in financial businesses, his philanthropy, and his ethics in a profession not always known for selfless scruples.

Morris will receive the honor on Oct. 15 at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan during the annual McGowan School of Business Forum. And while Lackenmier wasn’t at King’s when the forum was launched, he was president when the McGowan School was created.

“We had a business division from the very beginning,” he recalled. When King’s erected a new building to house the division, “we decided it was the right time to elevate it, and named it after our celebrated alumnus McGowan.”

McGowan, class of ‘52, is credited with breaking the AT&T monopoly on long distance phone service by transforming a struggling Illinois company into MCI Communications, of which he became CEO.

King’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement Frederick Pettit said the forum connects students with mentors in the field. It rotates from New York to Philadelphia to the Westmoreland Club in Wilkes-Barre to accommodate a wide range of business professionals willing to participate.

Pettit said that until now the forum, which generally involves about 80 students, generally raised enough money in fees to pay for itself. But the college decided it could be more. And adding the Lackenmier award to the event — which includes networking, mentoring, a keynote speaker and a meal — is transforming it into a college fundraiser.

Sponsors and program ads are being lined up. Money raised will be used for student scholarships and to help sustain the forum. In fact, anyone interested in a sponsorship or ad can contact Tish Last at 570-208-6069.

Does this mean Lackenmier could return to Wyoming Valley? He doesn’t exactly dismiss the notion out of hand, but he doesn’t embrace it, either.

“I could see myself living in the northeast again,” Lackenmier said, “But I’m quite content with what I’ve been asked to do here.”