A Letter to the Class of 2020

March 20, 2020

Dear Class of 2020,

I am so sorry.

This pandemic is taking a lot from you, and indeed from all of us. My heart goes out to you as you strive to adapt to new ways of learning and connecting with one another, while missing the campus you call home. I imagine it must feel as if the rest of senior year has been “cancelled,” and I grieve with you and feel your pain — and anger — over the loss of more time together and the chance to say goodbye.

I am so sorry you will miss living and learning alongside your friends and peers, whether it’s solving the world’s problems over D-hall brunch, or relaxing together on Westhampton Green on a sunny day, or studying in Boatwright together — perhaps stealing a laugh from the silence with your friends.

I am so sorry you will miss working side-by-side with your professors, whether it’s discussing a philosophical quandary, or perfecting your intonation, or chatting about your future during office hours as you prepare for life beyond our gates.

And I am so sorry we had to postpone commencement, when family and friends, faculty and staff, all join together to honor you and cheer you as you stride across the stage triumphantly in the Robins Center to receive your diploma. This, above all else, breaks my heart.

For some of you, graduating from college was an expectation, for others it was a dream, but for all of you commencement is an important rite of passage you have earned and deserve, symbolizing at once both an end and a new beginning. As one student recently wrote me, “The thought of not having a final shared experience is heartbreaking.” Please know plans are already underway to reunite you, celebrate you, and thank you for your understanding, resilience, and resolve. While we don’t yet know what that celebration will look like, we pledge to deliver a fitting tribute to you on campus once it is safe to bring everyone together. And we encourage you to continue to share what you need from us to have the celebration you so rightfully deserve.

The Latin writer Publilius Syrus once wrote, “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” The challenge is to hold your grip firm when the storm comes. Class of 2020, you have unexpectedly found yourself on a tempest-tossed ship, navigating a world in which the rhythms of our lives have been profoundly reshaped. But as you have worked with us to leave campus and adapt to remote instruction, you have steered through the battering waves with remarkable inner strength. You will always be a special class for us, known for your grit and ability to weather difficult circumstances, the exact type of people I want by my side when the storm comes.

Class of 2020, please know we are here to support you always. We will see you and your families again to celebrate your achievements, to toast your friendships, and to thank your faculty and staff mentors.

This is not the end of your story. As a musician, I think of this moment as a fermata — an unexpected pause before the music continues.


Ronald A. Crutcher