As we see more stories in the news about COVID-19, I am thinking about you and our Maria family, many of whom work on the front lines as healthcare workers or are getting ready to enter the field. For over 50 years we have educated healthcare professionals who are compassionate, competent, and steeped in Mercy values. Maria recognizes its responsibility to her students and to her community and there is no avoiding the inevitability of altering our plans for Commencement this year.
In our view, as well as in the view of essentially every other college in the area, bringing thousands of people together in May would not be in your interest, nor would it be in the interest of your family and broader community. Of course, changing the plans for Commencement in no way alters the fact all our students eligible for graduation will have their degrees conferred upon the completion of the Spring Semester, 2020.
The COVID situation has brought about a different way of life, temporarily, and we have all had to make sacrifices for the good of each other. In the last few weeks we have had to make difficult decisions with the safety and health of our students in mind. None of this is desirable – nor is there a precedent for it in our lifetimes.
However I want to keep a few things first and foremost: no matter what adaptations we have to make, you will always have your well-earned sense of accomplishment and completion for finishing your Maria degree.
- I know that walking across that stage and getting your degree is an important rite of passage.
- I know that you have made many sacrifices for your education, putting in long hours of study and the time it takes to master knowledge and requisite skill.
- I know that for many of you, your families, and friends also made sacrifices to see you achieve this goal.
- I know that many of our students are the first from their families to complete a college degree, and they are just as excited as you are to celebrate your success.
- I know that altering our commencement plans, and that moment for you, is the last thing I or anybody else at Maria wants to do – but given the facts it necessary to do so.
- I know that this news comes as a disappointment, and for that I can sincerely say, I’m sorry.
Commencement is the highlight of our academic year, where we get to celebrate and applaud your accomplishments, knowing how much went into each and every degree earned. You will have your moment, and I will be right there with you – alongside the faculty, friends, and family members who helped you along the way.
To plan for this day of celebration we will be reaching out to you, through surveys and other means, to get your perspective on how best to memorialize your achievements. Some institutions are postponing graduation to the fall, while others are creating virtual graduations that students can have as permanent keepsakes, which would contain words of blessing and inspiration, photos of each graduate with their name and degree along with photos of the faculty and others at Maria. There may be other methods as well, but we want to hear from you about what you want.
I said it earlier that Maria students are smart, resilient, and adaptable. I know that you have overcome many challenges in life, both large and small, and that you will come through this challenge, too.
I pray that you, and your families are safe and healthy. I have faith that this will pass and hope that our world and community will emerge stronger and more unified by meeting this challenge together.
Thomas J. Gamble, PhD
President of Maria College
Email communication sent to Maria College students on Friday, April 3.