The pressures students face today are much different than the pressures we faced, and in many circumstances those pressures are increased.
Leading one of America's most advanced and important transportation companies requires an innovative eye and a futuristic approach. As chairman, president and CEO of Union Pacific — the world's largest publicly traded freight railroad that moves goods used by every American family and business — Lance Fritz '85 has an eye on the future, every day.
It's fitting, then, that when Fritz and wife Julie Crenson Fritz '85 offered their support to Bucknell students, they took a leading-edge approach to addressing real and pervasive issues faced by today's young people — one that's been tried almost nowhere else.
Recognizing that those students deal with issues — like bombardment with negative news and the compulsion to curate a flawless online persona — that simply didn't exist when they attended Bucknell in the early 1980s, the Fritzes empowered the University's dean of students to expand student support services beyond the Counseling & Student Development Center and foreground the importance of mental well-being in the lives of Bucknell students. At its creation, the Fritz Family Dean of Students endowment was believed to be only the third endowed position for a chief student affairs officer in the country.
"The pressures students face today are much different than the pressures we faced, and in many circumstances those pressures are increased, or have become more targeted and focused," Lance Fritz, a mechanical engineering major, explains. "It can be really hard for them to build self-esteem and feel like they belong."
The Fritz Family endowment enables Bucknell's Division of Student Affairs to enhance student health and wellness outreach, including alcohol and other drug abuse prevention. Additional funds support initiatives that focus on belonging and connection with an emphasis on developing healthy lifestyles and outdoor pursuits.
"For a young person who is caught up in an addiction situation, having resources available to help them continue at school and work toward their degree can mean everything for their recovery and future success," says Julie Fritz, who graduated with a mechanical engineering degree as well.
The Fritz Family endowment enhances the University's already-robust efforts to provide a caring and supportive living-learning community where all Bucknell students can thrive and explore, including a host of programs that promote wellness and de-stigmatize mental health, such as mindfulness, meditation and art therapy activities. The Fritzes say they've noticed and admire those efforts, and hope their gift will take them even further.
"The administration today is engaging students and trying to be a positive presence in a way that’s fundamentally different from what I experienced — and I applaud them for it," Lance says.
"It can make the difference between a student succeeding or deciding to leave," Julie adds.