March 27, 2020
For many of us, this feels like a time out from reality, whether at home working to radically restructure our daily lives with a new set of routines and practices, or on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic. We threw a lot at you in the last week, with the greatly increased restrictions regarding what can be done on campus, the moving of this year’s Reunion to next spring, and the postponement of Commencement until we can provide the proper celebration our graduates deserve. The rate of change has come so rapidly across our society that one tends to cope either by trying to swim in the swift current of information coming on all channels, or by trying to exist out of time, often by revisiting favorite books or shows, or reconnecting with old friends.
There is a timelessness in what we do at Hobart and William Smith – the ever-flowing and increasing information that passes from generation to generation that defines the core mission of the Colleges and that serves the common good. Without scientists and physicians, we would not know how to identify or treat COVID-19. Without philosophers and historians, we would not be able to navigate the ethical considerations of this international crisis. Without art, literature and theatre, we could not capture the essence of these moments in order to reflect, learn and then change the future. Without athletics, we may not fully understand the teamwork, perseverance and endurance that will sustain our future success. Without public policy experts, financial wizards, statisticians, sociologists and even economists, we would be incapable of willing a massive global recovery into being. And of course, without teachers, both formal and informal, we would simply cease to be.
At Hobart and William Smith, our faculty ignite curiosity and then equip students with the intellectual skills to navigate the complexities that will emerge in these next months and years, even when they have to resort temporarily to remote learning in order to achieve their course goals. Well-deserved congratulations are due to the faculty, staff and students who, with little time to prepare and in the midst of this pandemic, have made it through the first week of such classes. The collaboration and flexibility required is substantial and I thank them all sincerely. That community-wide collaboration was also on display this week when, in less than 24 hours, alums, parents, faculty and staff raised more than $25,000 to support students in need as a result of the pandemic, and that fund continues to grow. You have my gratitude.
This moment out of time may challenge us, but it will not defeat us. We will emerge from this crisis and the Quad will once again ring with the sounds of the St. Mark’s Tower bells, our students playing Frisbee and singing a capella, our faculty discussing ideas, and our alumni and alumnae reunioning.
I look forward to those times and hope you will join us here then.
Joyce P. Jacobsen
To learn more about the Colleges’ response to the pandemic, please visit the HWS COVID-19 webpage.
One of the ironies of COVID-19 is that in order to protect the communities and the people we love, we must isolate ourselves. As we postpone in-person learning, lectures, symposia, Reunion and Commencement, we can still gather online. Join us on Instagram and Twitter using #HWSTogether.