“Why I Remain Close to Lehigh” is a collection of feature stories about Lehigh University alumni volunteers and their motivation to stay involved with their alma mater. The group of alumni were interviewed by Klaudia Jazwinska ’18 and Carina Bonasera ’19.
Steve Rittler ’99 says he learned as much from being a computer engineering major at Lehigh as he did from participating in many of the university’s musical organizations.
A saxophone player and alumnus of the Marching 97, philharmonic orchestra, concert band, jazz band, wind ensemble, jazz ensemble, and Kappa Kappa Psi – the national honorary band fraternity – Rittler said his extra-curricular involvement pushed him to explore, expand, and collaborate with others. In his four years at Lehigh, Rittler learned how to be a leader, made lifelong friends, and met his wife, Michelle (Judd) Rittler ’02.
“I don’t think any classroom experience came close to teaching me as much about leadership, about people, and about Lehigh as the 97 did,” he said. “Every minute with the Marching 97 was a labor of love. So many recollections of hard work, moments of pride, and true collegiality combine into one unmistakably great memory.”
After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in computer engineering, Rittler founded a company called AlumnIQ, which builds software for alumni engagement.
“An engineering degree magnifies your curiosity and adds to it the discipline to find pragmatic solutions,” he said. “Lehigh was great in that regard. Never have I found myself in a professional situation where I wasn’t confident I’d ‘figure it out.’”
Through the years, Rittler has remained an active alumnus, volunteering his time to the Reunion committee, the Philadelphia Alumni Club, the Young Alumni Council, and the Alumni Association Board of Directors.
As a member of the Marching 97, Rittler started attending Reunion before he even graduated from Lehigh – this spring will be his 18th. He said he enjoys the happiness that pervades campus and that the smiles and playing with the Alumni Band “make it all worthwhile.”
Rittler said one of the main reasons he remains connected and involved with the Lehigh community is his debt of gratitude to the generous donors who funded his scholarship. Also, he believes that there’s a “strong network of talent orbiting Lehigh that is self-reinforcing if we keep it well fed.”
“Lehigh alumni showed up big time in my life before I was even an accepted student…showed up regularly throughout my time as a student — starting at Marching 97 band camp of all places — and I feel that, as an alum, it is my responsibility to show up for today’s and tomorrow’s students,” he said. “I believe in the intelligence and tenacity of Lehigh alumni — and the willingness with which we jump at opportunities to prove we are worthy.”
Rittler said he wants to continue to share that ambitious mindset with today’s students by connecting them with like-minded alumni to build a similar confidence.
— Klaudia Jazwinska ’18
Photo by John E. Harry ’67