President Earl Lazerson served as SIUE's president for nearly 14 years. He joined the SIUE faculty in 1969 and taught mathematics until he took over as the University president on an interim basis in 1979, and then permanently in 1980. He was committed to making SIUE an engine for economic development in the region. He worked diligently to create the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois as a regional chamber of commerce and the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority, which was established as a financial tool for job creation.
Lazerson placed great emphasis on strong undergraduate classes taught by professors instead of graduate students. He also focused his attention on minority recruitment and retention efforts with a renewed commitment to the SIUE East St. Louis Center. He worked hard to secure better salaries for employees during his tenure. Among his most memorable achievements was transitioning the SIUE campus from a quarter to a semester system, consolidating various schools into what today is known as the College of Arts and Sciences and presiding over the construction of several major buildings, including the Vadalabene Center, the Student Fitness Center, the dental clinic at the SIU School of Dental Medicine in Alton, the University's first 500-student residence hall and the Art and Design Building.
In addition to receiving numerous awards and honors, he took great pride in being recognized with SIUE's Teaching Excellence Award. He served in numerous leadership capacities, including chairman of past Illinois Governor Thompson's East St. Louis Financial Advisory Authority and the newly formed Southwestern Illinois Development Authority. He also was on the board of the Saint Louis Symphony Society, the St. Louis Technology Center and other agencies.
Lazerson holds mathematics degrees from Wayne State University and the University of Michigan. He worked as a mathematician at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Princeton, N.J. and as a mathematics teacher at Washington University in St. Louis prior to his time at SIUE.