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"The idea for the Iacocca Institute at Lehigh University emerged from the questions, How do you go about building global leadership? How do you demonstrate to people from different worlds that their commonalities are greater than their differences?" —Lee Iacocca

About the Iacocca Institute

In partnership with Lee Iacocca ’45, Lehigh University founded the Iacocca Institute in 1988 to help prepare the next generation of leaders to thrive in a global economy, with the belief that successful leadership in the 21st century would require a deep understanding of different cultures and countries and comfort working across boundaries and borders.

In 1997, the Institute launched its flagship program: the Global Village, an immersive intercultural learning experience focused on global business and leadership skills. The Global Village brings university students and professionals from around the world to Lehigh for five weeks each summer to learn how to work across cultures and lead in a global community. Today, the Global Village alumni network now includes more than 2,500 successful leaders from 135 countries.

The Iacocca Institute has used the success of the Global Village to launch the Iacocca Global Entrepreneurship Intensive, for American and international high school students, and Global Village on the Move, which works with global partner organizations to bring programs to cities around the world. The Institute also works with partner organizations around the world to develop custom programs. For example, in 2017, the Iacocca Institute hosted 25 emerging young professionals from 16 African nations through the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

In 2011, Iacocca continued his commitment to international education with the launch of the Iacocca International Internship Program, fully funded internships that allow Lehigh University students to work or do research overseas for six to 12 weeks each summer. More than 500 students have received internships since the program’s founding.


Lido Anthony “Lee” Iacocca was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1924, three years after his parents emigrated from Italy. He studied industrial engineering at Lehigh University, graduating in 1945. He then received a Wallace Memorial Fellowship to Princeton University.

Iacocca started working at Ford Motor Company in 1946, quickly rising through the ranks to become general manager in 1960 and president in 1970. Under his leadership, Ford introduced several successful models, including the iconic Mustang. Despite his successes, Iacocca frequently clashed with Henry Ford II and was ultimately fired in 1978. Within months, he was hired as the president of the Chrysler Corporation, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. He restructured the company and oversaw new projects like the Dodge Caravan, the first minivan. Within five years, he turned the company around and landed on the cover of Time magazine for the second time in his career. He retired as chief executive of Chrysler in 1992.

Throughout his life, Iacocca has believed in the importance of giving back. He chaired the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, raising funds to restore the two monuments, and following the death of his wife Mary from diabetes in 1983, he established the Iacocca Foundation with his daughters Kathryn and Lia to support diabetes research. He has devoted his retirement to finding a cure for the disease. In the 1980s, he led the university’s campaign to acquire property from Bethlehem Steel that would become the Mountaintop Campus. The university named Iacocca Hall in his honor and launched the Iacocca Institute, cementing Iacocca’s legacy as a passionate supporter of Lehigh’s efforts to develop globally competent leaders.