President VanAken’s Message to the Campus Community

A message from President VanAken, delivered March 18, 2020.

The text of the message follows:

Greetings to the Elmhurst University community.

As we continue to navigate the disruptions and challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I’d like to take a moment to express my gratitude for how our community has been responding, and to reflect on what guides our decision-making during this challenging time.

I truly appreciate the hard work and ingenuity shown by our faculty and staff in recent weeks. They have worked tirelessly to develop and implement ways to support our students and help sustain their academic progress.

I’d also like to thank our students for being flexible and patient under such stressful circumstances.

And I am grateful to our alumni, who have been asking what they can do to help.

We are all trying to make sense of this unprecedented situation. It is fluid, uncertain, unfair, and very demanding of us.

It has taken away our ability to come together as learners, performers, audience members and fans. It has taken away opportunities to celebrate student achievement and success.

Just this past weekend, our Sweet 16 men’s basketball team lost the chance to suit up for their championship run; and our winter band concert, as well as the closing performances of “A Doll’s House,” had to be canceled.

We also had to cancel a trip to Bogota, Colombia, for a Niebuhr Service to Society recruitment event. Sadly, the list goes on and on.

Closer to home in our day-to-day lives, we are called upon to keep our distance from the people we care most about—our grandparents, our parents, our colleagues and friends.

But we are making these sacrifices for the greater good, and to protect the most vulnerable among us.

And throughout these trying times, we have looked to our values—values of community, of inclusion, of social responsibility and accountability to each other—to guide our decision-making.

For nearly 150 years, our shared values have helped to bring us through the Great Depression, two world wars, and economic and social upheaval. They will come through for us again now.

We believe in Elmhurst University President H. Richard Niebuhr’s vision for this institution—as an ever-widening circle that continually reaches out to new students, new partners and new opportunities, and that then brings them into our beloved community to nurture and support.

Our ever-widening circle thrives in an environment where we can feel safe. And so we commit ourselves to maintaining the safety and well-being of our campus community, as well as the broader society to which we all belong.

As developments continue to unfold, we will remain vigilant and will respond to the best of our ability. And we will draw strength from the values that tell us who we are and what we stand for.

I look forward to seeing you on campus again soon. In the meantime, we will get through this by working together, looking out for each other and lifting each other up. I am proud to be your president and to serve this great institution.

Thank you.

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