It’s spring. The flowers are budding, the birds are chirping. As an
event planner, I am busy as the bees themselves. I
should know, one of my summer workshops is for beekeepers. Our
University provides hundreds of enrichment events each year where the
community of all ages comes together to learn, grow and play. I plan
each event down to the very last detail so they go off without a hitch.
I was looking forward to the Spring Commencement. Planned months in
advance. I think about how the PE Complex would soon be transformed
into an amazing display of tradition as over 4500+ guests crowded in,
anxiously awaiting to hear their graduate’s name called. The stage
would be draped in VU blue and the president would give his words of
wisdom to the sea of around 600 graduates waiting to turn their
tassel. I was ready!
The current crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has tossed everything I
know and do up in the air. Like everyone else, I am waiting for it to
land. As you read this op-ed, every event and camp through mid-May at
Vincennes University has been canceled or postponed. Spring baseball
camps, a long-running Bible conference that has happened for 45
straight years, group meetings and more -- all victims of the
coronavirus. Most of us are now working from home....now that is quite
the experience for me!
will we do? I think this is the hardest for me. I get so attached to
some of these students. Prior to being in charge of events, I spent
20+ years in Parent & Family Services. I know the VU families
pretty well. I have witnessed VU students and their families struggle,
I have shared their sorrows and their joys. Parents are passionate
about their students’ education. I am sure many of them have already
made reservations and plans well in advance of their child’s
graduation day. It is a momentous occasion for all. My heart breaks
for them and with them.
Many students at VU are the first person in their family to go to
college and now the first to graduate. I think about our students and
what it means to walk across the stage as their name is called, posing
for that important photo with President Johnson, hearing the cheers
from their families. Watching students line up, joking with friends,
taking pictures, decorating mortarboards… how will they say their
goodbyes? I think about the families. Many of them have put so much
into helping and supporting their child to get to graduation day.
Mothers, fathers, grandparents, mentors all preparing for this day...
but no one planned for this.
As I wait to see what happens I struggle with what to do. I keep
going through my camp folders, reaching out to my contacts, meeting
virtually with others to make sure we do what is best for each of us,
reassuring everyone that as soon as we know, they will know. I wish I
had a crystal ball! Rest assured, our students will still graduate.
We are adapting to
a new normal. We are a global community of individuals that are in the
fight against coronavirus together. My heart goes out to each and
every one of you. My mind is now buzzing with questions. Will it be
the same? Will it be postponed to another date...perhaps combined with
our midyear December graduation? Will it be hosted this summer...will
we be out of danger by then? Will VU host its first-ever virtual
commencement? Will the halls and grounds of Vincennes University be
silent, instead of reverberating with the cheers of the Class of 2020
as well as the sounds of campers visiting our campus enriching their
lives...making new memories?
The answers to these questions have yet to be decided. What I do know
is that we will make it to the other side. As the old song says, we
may never pass this way again, but years from now...these memories,
these trials, these joys, these successes will make us who we are. I
know that COVID-19
certainly wasn’t part of my plan, or yours, but it is central to our
new reality. I hope all who are reading this are encouraged to know we
are in this with you. Life has a way of working out...as will this. No
matter how this plays out we will all be a part of the VU family at
the end of the day.