Emily Winn-Deen '74 performs on stage in St. Croix with the 1974 Glee Club under the direction of Robert “Boss” Cutler, professor of music.

In late spring of 1974, just before Commencement, Emily Winn-Deen ’74 toured the U.S. Virgin Islands with the Lehigh Glee Club and Women’s Chorus, performing a number of songs under the steady direction of Robert “Boss” Cutler, professor of music.

Emily Winn-Deen '74 in a cap and grown with her parents on either side

Winn-Deen met Boss at an activities fair in 1971 during her first semester on campus. She’d been active in her high school chorus and church choir, so Glee Club seemed a natural fit. Winn-Deen knew she needed to find an outlet to balance the demands of her chemistry major … and her own studious inclinations. 

All these years later, singing has remained a constant in her life, including singing with community and church choirs where she lives and several more Lehigh chorus tours, all while she has found incredible success in a career in life sciences as the inventor with nearly 50 U.S. patents.

It all began in Princeton, New Jersey. Winn-Deen wanted to explore a new town and set her sights on Lehigh — it was science minded, well established, and academically rigorous. A tour sealed the deal for her.

“I loved Lehigh when I saw it,” she says. “It felt familiar and comfortable, close to home but far enough away.” She applied early decision and was accepted. She had enough advanced placement credits to almost enter as a sophomore.

Organic chemistry, her first chemistry class at Lehigh, is when she met Ned Heindel, Howard S. Bunn Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemistry. She was the only woman in the class, so Heindel quickly learned her name and not long after he became her adviser.

“He made sure I took my courses in the right order, joined the American Chemical Society student affiliate club, and had clinical chemistry labs at a hospital site,” she says. “His love of chemistry influenced me, and he was wonderful at shepherding us through the program.”

In three years, she finished her course work and began to search for a graduate program. She wanted to work in medicine but not as a physician and sought a doctoral program affiliated with a medical school. Boston University fit the bill.

Emily Winn-Deen '74 in a black blazer

“I wanted to apply knowledge and have an impact on the lives of patients but work behind the scenes,” she says. “Patients have tests ordered and the results magically appear. I wanted to be part of that magic.”

She has done just that in several senior leadership roles at startups focused on bringing cutting-edge diagnostics to market. Think blood-based tests for early cancer detection. Think in-office flu tests. Think at-home COVID-19 tests.

She worked in teams that combined software, instrumentation, and her specialty, wet chemistry.

“I helped to engineer systems to deliver timely results in user-friendly ways,” she says.

It’s what has made her get engaged at the new College of Health.

“There are so few alumni from the College of Health, but a number of people like me work in health professions and are happy to support students, help develop curricula, and assist the dean,” she says.

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In fact, Winn-Deen hosted Beth Dolan, dean of the College of Health, at a gathering in Southern California, where a number of Lehigh alumni who are engaged in health professions met to learn more about the college.

Winn-Deen understands what it means to navigate new spaces. As a member of the first women at Lehigh, she remembers the bonds she formed at Carothers, her dormitory, while also struggling to find a women’s restroom near her classrooms in Chandler Lab. She was the first woman in the Glee Club and sang as a tenor (she’s usually a soprano).

Emily Winn-Deen '74 stands with 100 other student and alumni members of the choice at Hero's Square in Budapest, Hungary

“Students today are much more open about their struggles. They care much more about feeling supported and accepted,” she says. She knows this from firsthand experience as she toured with students and Lehigh community members in 2019 to Austria and Hungry, 2023 to Ireland, and 2024 to Portugal.

Each trip has 40-50 students and nearly an equal number of community members like Winn-Deen. Together they perform a half dozen songs and visit several venues over a 10-day trip. She has performed in a Budapest cathedral, Irish school for music, and the Vienna Boys Choir concert hall.

While they sing together, Winn-Deen’s presence is another kind of voice and ear.

“The students are working to find their paths, so it is nice to listen and be of assistance,” she says. “It’s great to see that they are just like we were — they want hands-on practical experience to supplement their classroom learning. They are still ‘makers,’ building ideas into solutions. They work hard to sound beautiful together.”

Eager to learn more about Dean Dolan's vision for serving the healthcare industry through Lehigh? Here are five things you should know about the College of Health.