The Yayasan Raja Zarith Sofiah Negeri Johor's relationship with Lehigh University can be dated back several decades to the building of the PETRONAS Twin Towers. The events and activities that took place at that time helped lay the foundation for a long and fruitful relationship.
In 1996, Dato' Dr. Ridzuan Salleh assumed the chairmanship of the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat at Lehigh, where he worked together with Lehigh's faculty and administration to establish the Fazler Rahman Khan Endowed Chair in Structural Engineering and Architecture.
Starting in 2001, PETRONAS began its Top American Universities Program and over the next few years graduated 10 scholars form Lehigh, who joined Lehigh's many other talented Malaysian alumni.
Today a strong and vibrant network of productive working relationships exists between Lehigh and several of Malaysia's best institutions of higher learning, including University Malaysia, University Technology PETRONAS, University Technology Mara and other.
The early relationship between Malaysia and Lehigh was characterized by its focus on engineering. Informal conversations, however, revealed long-standing aspirations among Lehigh's faculty to provide students with courses on the history,religion, culture, and politics of global Islam. As Michael Raposa, chairman of Lehigh's religion studies department wrote in 1997: "The importance of the study of Islam is clear, not only in regard to its relevance in the contemporary world, but also in terms of Islam's classical relationship to Judaism and Christianity.