Like no other
Lacking a crystal ball to know the future, important decisions at a college are ideally based on all knowable facts, sound reasoning, and laser focus on what is best for the mission of the institution.
During the summer of 2020, the administration of Davis & Elkins College worked diligently to put in place COVID-19 protocols for the re-opening of the campus to our students for in-person classes. We knew the semester would be trying, we were certain the plan put into place was thorough, and our students were telling us they wanted to return. We took a collective deep breath, said a prayer, and opened our classroom doors to students on Aug. 17.
Six days from now the fall 2020 semester will end as final exams are completed. Looking back over the past three months, it is now possible and appropriate to reflect on our experience. The completion of this semester has been like no other, beginning with mandatory COVID testing on the porch of Halliehurst, followed in coming weeks with positive cases isolated on campus and the consequent contact tracing and quarantining of groups of students out of an abundance of caution. Snapshots of the unprecedented semester included student move-in day becoming a two-week period of socially distanced arrivals, orientation activities either outdoor or virtual, grab-and-go meals an everyday reality in the dining hall, socially distanced classrooms, fall athletics delayed to the spring semester, and facial coverings mandatory across campus.
In August, some questioned if we made the right call to open. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I believe we did. I will be the first to acknowledge there were bumps, sometimes large bumps, along the proverbial road. However, the faculty and staff were determined to offer a high-quality educational experience to students in spite of trying circumstances. Students also deserve credit for looking past the obstacles and making the best of a new reality. The overwhelming majority of our students, glad to be on campus, followed the rules and made us proud with their resiliency.
As we prepare to cross this semester’s finish line, I am grateful that we add another storied academic term to the annals of the College. The next published D&E history will surely include text and pictures from the year 2020, a year few will forget.
Next week’s national holiday will find me thankful for this college community that pulled together during adversity and continues to transform lives as it has done for the past 116 years. For all that rallied around our orientation theme of #DEStrong and made it reality in our communal lives, I offer my words of gratitude and pray it strengthens the resolve of our collegiate community for the semester to come.
For our nation and our world, as we face the continuing scourge of this virus, I give thanks for all that have dedicated themselves to caring for the sick, finding vaccines and therapeutics, and spreading hope and cheer. As I once heard an enlightened speaker say, “It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars.”
The journey continues…