On Oct. 6, Saint Mary’s welcomed alumnus Michael Lehan to speak on “Athletics, Relationships, and Character.” Lehan spoke to student athletes, coaches, and staff about overcoming challenges, playing collegiate and professional football, and becoming an educational leader.

Lehan began by asking students to reflect on who they are. “There is an important difference between what we do and who we are,” said Lehan. “We are not only what we have achieved. And we can really come to understand who we are when we face adversity.”

Lehan described athletics as a “transactional good.” After a standout football career at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minn., Lehan continued to play four years at the University of Minnesota, where he was named team captain during his senior year. “Athletics provided me with great opportunities, but it was never just about athletics,” said Lehan.  

He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round in 2003 and went on to enjoy a six-year career with the Browns (2003-05), Miami Dolphins (2006-2008), and New Orleans Saints (2008). 

“Athletics and sport are powerful metaphors for understanding character development,” said Michael Hahn, Ph.D., assistant dean of the school of education. “Whether it is sport or character, we become what we practice.”

Desiring to give back after his professional career, Lehan studied education at Saint Mary’s. He earned his Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, Educational Specialist Degree, K-12 principal licensure, and superintendent licensure. Lehan graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Family Social Sciences in 2002 from the University of Minnesota. He also earned a Doctor of Education from the University of St. Thomas.

Lehan is currently the head of school at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He previously served as dean of students, assistant principal, and principal in the Osseo School District, the fifth-largest school system in Minnesota, serving 20,000 students. As principal, Lehan was named “Hennepin Division Principal of Year” in 2019 and “Principal of the Year” in 2020 by the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals. During his tenure, he guided the school to its first-ever ranking as one of “The Best High Schools” in the nation by US News & World Report, an honor the school held for three straight years. 

Lehan was promoted to assistant superintendent for Equity and Achievement for Osseo Area Schools in July 2020 and was recently honored as a Distinguished Alumni of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. The title of Lehan’s dissertation is At What Cost: The Exploration of Critical Vulnerability of Black Men Principals in Predominantly White Educational Spaces.

Saint Mary’s students asked Lehan questions about what helps him persevere, how he decided to go back to school after his time in the NFL, and what advice he would give them. Lehan encouraged cultivating deep character friends, describing a friend as “a person who can sing the song of your heart when you have forgotten the words.”

Lehan is actively engaged in community service and various mentorship programs including serving on the boards for The Bridge for Youth homeless shelter, the University of Minnesota Foundation, and the Ed.S. Advisory Board at Saint Mary’s, as well as partnering with Hope & Home, a foster care located in Colorado Springs.