A Letter to Faculty and Staff

April 5, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

As we enter the final weeks of the semester, settling into our new and primarily digital reality, I have had more time to think and reflect on our circumstances. Today, I would like to pause and express my gratitude to you.

There is no playbook to address this global pandemic. I admit to feeling not only fear at times, but also great loss — a loss of our daily routines, of our connections to one another, and of the comfort we too often take for granted regarding the health of our family, friends, and colleagues. And yet, even as our lives have been turned upside down, I have found inspiration in the one constant through it all: your commitment to educating our students and caring for one another.

I sympathize with and recognize the immense stress and strain you are experiencing. You have been asked to change the educational model with which you are most familiar within a matter of weeks, requiring hours of extra work learning how to put courses online, while also facing disruptions to critical research, writing, lab time, and fieldwork. You have also been asked to provide support services to students and colleagues from afar, leading to many hours spent mastering new technologies. Betty and I on our walks around campus have witnessed still others coming to the University to maintain critical operations and care for those students who remain with us. And of course, we are all juggling our work responsibilities with everything from caring for children at home to worrying about the health of loved ones to wondering when this ends and what comes next.

And yet, you are meeting this moment with courage and compassion. I receive messages every day affirming your efforts. Our students, Spider parents, and alumni share my gratitude for the enormous effort and sacrifices you are making to continue to fulfill our shared mission. As just one example, I would like to share the following excerpt from a letter I received from a student:

  • I credit the university for helping to teach us that there are times when no matter how we feel, we must do something to help others that is bigger than ourselves. I credit the university for supporting us and making us feel confident that we can do this. And lastly, I credit the university … for creating a place that we know we will always be able to call home; even if we are just seeing it virtually.

I hope you will take pride in knowing how successful you have been in preparing our students to navigate our difficult circumstances.

I would like to conclude by sharing some simple but sage advice I once heard from Fred Rogers, whose program I used to watch with my daughter Sara. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” he said, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” I see helpers in every corner of our campus. Richmond is such a special place — even in a crisis — because of you. Thank you sincerely for everything you have done and will continue to do to care for and help the Spider community.


Ronald A. Crutcher