The Challenges of 2020 & Brighter Days Ahead


February 05, 2021
President Thayne McCulloh

There is no question that the past year has been a time of trial and challenge without modern precedent. Starting last February, when we began to see the tidal wave of COVID-19 impact country after country (quite quickly obligating all of us to shift much of our lives and many to “stay at home”), so much of that to which we had become accustomed was altered. For a time, panic-buying emptied store shelves of basic goods, routine activities such as grocery shopping were limited, and going to movies, concerts and other live performances became impossible. Even as we watched our favorite restaurants close down, some of us experienced our own spouses or family members suddenly with reduced work, or unemployed altogether.

Many of us have taken on new or additional responsibilities, both at work and at home. We found ourselves supporting at-home schooling, and protecting elderly parents or other vulnerable family members. Many in health care shifted their focus from routine clinical work to caring for those who had been infected with this virus. Indeed, some among us have fallen ill and we have lost beloved family members, friends, and retired Jesuits due to COVID-19; we mourn the loss of wonderful, amazing people from our lives and from our world. For so many, this pandemic has become a tragedy of epic proportions, and a source of deep and abiding sadness. All of us, in ways both large and small, have been affected by it.

As we watched businesses struggle and some close their doors, Gonzaga held tight to its decision to resume work this past fall and give students a choice whether to participate in the semester on campus or from a remote location. This was not without risk or skepticism, and certainly not without concerns or financial implications. At the same time, a significant number of academic offerings require in-person engagement, particularly in the sciences, engineering, and professions such as nursing. Engaging in this work with attention to safety has been paramount. Over the semester, our rates of infection remained relatively low even as we cared for students who fell ill or might have been exposed. This success is a testament to the care our students, faculty, staff and families have shown for one another and our community. I could not be more proud of the example they have set.

View questions & answers about pandemic operations at Gonzaga.

At the same time we battled a worldwide pandemic and tirelessly developed our related plans for managing in the face of it, another pandemic once again showed its face. We are confronted by racial discrimination – directly and indirectly, across our country and right here in our campus community. The intentional and multi-layered work to address diversity, equity and inclusion here at Gonzaga was well grounded but in need of ongoing attention. We have re-committed to creating opportunities to educate and engage every member of the campus community, hire for greater diversity among our faculty and staff, continue evaluation of curriculum and pedagogy, and more effectively support our students from historically under-represented populations. You can expect to hear more developments about and from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion regularly (including this piece in the spring issue of Gonzaga Magazine).

Find details about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion work at Gonzaga.

Yet – among the many challenges and stressful circumstances, there have been many grace-filled moments and opportunities for gratitude. People have shown up for one another and supported each other in ways large and small, remarkable and poignant. In a very special way, that includes all those who support Gonzaga and its many facets: families, friends, alumni, Jesuits, Trustees and Regents, and benefactors from around the world. Whether supporting us with scholarships for students, or engaging with us on tough topics, we depend upon you every day. Without you all, your faith in GU, and the blessings of the Holy Spirit, we could never achieve the success that we have thus far.

Inspired by the good works, dedication, and fortitude of this community, I look forward to working to strengthen the bonds of friendship and goodwill together with all of you – as our journey takes us into the spring soon upon us, and the promise of new life, new hope, and a renewed appreciation for the blessings in our lives. May God bless you, each and every day.

Sincerely,
President Thayne M. McCulloh

So, what does 2021 hold in store for us? Here are a few glimpses of hope for the year ahead:

  • As this issue goes to press, we’re hearing more about delivery of COVID vaccines and hopeful that their widespread distribution will help to squelch further outbreaks.
  • Gonzaga-in-Florence continues to prepare – after nearly a full year without students – for the possibility of reopening for Summer 2021.
  • This spring we launch a Center for Climate, Society, and the Environment.
  • We will formally open the beautiful new Integrated Science and Engineering facility.
  • Gonzaga Global and the beginning of a new partnership with Shorelight will bring a new group of international students to campus next fall.
  • Construction on a new home for the University of Washington-GU Medical Education Partnership continues, with an expected completion of June 2022.
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