From the President department heading
Illustration of John C. Bravman, President
Illustration: Joel Kimmel

Looking Back, and Looking Ahead

In 2010 I made a decision that would change the course of my family’s life when I accepted the offer to become president of Bucknell. After 35 years at Stanford — first as a student from New York, then as a professor and administrator — I hadn’t been looking to leave. My wife, Wendy, taught engineering at Santa Clara University, and she is a native Californian with family in the area. What’s more, we were expecting our first child together that spring.
Nonetheless, I soon found myself engaged in lengthy conversations with Ken Freeman ’72, then chair of the Board of Trustees and perhaps the ultimate ambassador for his alma mater. I quickly understood two things: Bucknell is an extraordinarily tightly knit community, and its undergraduate-focused mission holds boundless potential. As the first in my family to go to college, I know the life-changing power of a bachelor’s degree, and I saw the opportunity to lead Bucknell as a way to give back. That summer, Wendy and I arrived on campus with our two-month-old son, Cole.

Fast forward to October 2022, when I gratefully accepted the invitation of the Board of Trustees to continue my presidency through at least 2028 — a proposal that gave me an opportunity to reflect on why I love Bucknell so much. It comes down to people and potential.

I’m privileged to work with an exceptionally accomplished faculty and staff, many of whom have been with the University for decades. Their roles vary widely, but they share an intrinsic motivation to do their very best by our students because they truly believe in our mission. I’m thankful to be part of this community, and our relatively small size means we know each other well as colleagues, and many as friends. I want to strengthen this special environment in the years ahead by making sure Bucknell adapts with the times as an employer. The world of work has changed with the pandemic, and we are committed to ensuring that Bucknell remains a place where talented people want to build thriving careers, so that our students have the best experience possible.

As we teach, guide and nurture our students today, we are equally committed to future generations. That’s why our top institutional priority is meeting financial need and making Bucknell more accessible to tomorrow’s students. I could never have afforded to go to college without scholarships and financial aid, so one of the most fulfilling parts of my job as president is advancing initiatives that will help more qualified students from all backgrounds attend Bucknell. We recently announced a new program, the Gateway Scholars, which each year will provide 20 first-generation students with the funding they need to attend Bucknell — and we are putting into place supports to ensure they will have the resources they need to thrive throughout their four years here. I thank Bob ’84, P’16 and Sue DeMent Gamgort ’84, P’16 for funding the program for the next four entering classes, and I look forward to helping even more deserving students reach their potential in the years to come through our upcoming comprehensive campaign, which prioritizes need-based financial aid.

When I finish my tenure as president, Cole could well be a member of the Class of 2032. I’ve treasured every moment of this job, even the most difficult, because of my deep belief in Bucknell’s power to change lives, and the world, through our mission. We inherited an incredible foundation from the Bucknellians who came before us, and we take seriously our obligation to steward this legacy for those who will follow.

Every day brings fresh challenges, some daunting — but also great joy and amazing opportunities to shape the future with the help of our alumni, parents and friends. I can’t wait to see how the years ahead unfold.

Copy of John C. Bravman signature

John C. Bravman