Alverno President Andrea Lee, IHM, PhD

From the President: Spring/Summer 2020

It looked like a dead twig to me. I let it sit on my windowsill, trying to believe, as Dawn had told me, that it would bloom again. Of course, with a name like Dawn, how could I possibly doubt her cheery optimism? And so my orchid sat — for weeks. By yesterday morning, though, I knew she was right; the stick would bloom after all. And this morning, in response to resplendent sunshine, the first of several beautiful white orchids blossomed gloriously. Resurrexit sicut dixit!

A perfect metaphor for these days, yes? No doubt it has been the strangest of semesters. For months last year, we waded through the aftermath of the
“great flood,” and it simply could not conquer Alverno Strong. Neither will the COVID-19 pandemic. No. Definitely not.

On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we celebrated more than 270 graduates in a heartfelt, socially distant (indeed, 99 percent remote)
conferral of degrees. (The chief academic officer, deans, tech guys, name reader and I were present on campus). It was incredibly sad not to walk
the procession on 39th Street into the Commencement ceremony; nor see the beautiful faces of our students as they crossed the stage; nor feel the
palpable energy in the Pitman Theatre that exults again and again, “I made it!” We also missed all of the lovely ceremonies surrounding graduation —
the Baccalaureate liturgy and hooding ceremony; Nurses’ Pinning Ceremony; Senior Week; the Bestowal of the Kente and Latinas con Fuerza rituals and, for the first time this year, a parallel ceremony for students of Asian heritage. Still, we worked as hard as possible to make May 23, 2020, a day to remember with joy, respect and admiration. In fact, an entire semester to remember, with exactly the same sentiments. We made it! Indeed we did.

So during this quiet week afterward, I think about 270 Alverno strong women — and a few special men as well — who achieved a tremendous goal and now enter the world, if not for the first time as a professional, at least in a new and stronger way. We miss them already — have missed them since March and hope to welcome them home here often and with much love and enthusiasm. May their lives reflect their intelligence, competence and goodness. The world is starving for the nourishing fruit of their labors.

Truth be told, the summer of 2020 will not be one with many lazy days unfolding in sequence. We are deeply engaged in planning to open Alverno College to students and faculty in August, barring compelling counter advice by health or government officials. To prepare for that and for the necessary changes it may mean, intense, creative and thoughtful work is demanded of all. A lot of it.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Joseph Foy and his team of academic leaders and faculty are creating multiple instructional scenarios, with
the central goal of “on campus for most courses and students,” but ready to pivot creatively to new forms of instruction as necessary. Faculty are
already magnificently at work preparing courses and improving their already fine work of the spring semester. On campus, we are altering spaces to accommodate physical distancing, rethinking student life, accelerating technology capacity and thinking about the Alverno culture, our collective energy and emotional health and, above all, the health and safety of all. Advancement staff members are connecting with alumnae and donors in new and engaging ways. Thinking anew. Planning. Revising. Taking in new information as we have access to it. Talking with colleagues around the city and country. Knowing it is truly a new day.

Thank you for walking this road with us. Your questions, ideas, support and generosity mean more than you know. Be safe and well! We are Alverno Strong!


This letter appears in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Alverno Magazine.

%d bloggers like this: