President's Letter, Winter | Spring 2020

Spirit and Courage

By Rev. John Denning, C.S.C.

Stonehill Alumni Magazine | Winter Spring 2020 | Fr. John Denning, C.S.C.

In response to COVID-19, our once bustling campus became quiet—bereft of people and activity. We switched to virtual instruction and working remotely, recalled students from studying abroad, halted athletic seasons, cancelled summer programming except for online classes and, for the first time in our history, rescheduled Commencement and Reunion.

While these changes have been sweeping and disruptive, what has remained steadfast is our spirit as a community. Together, we have worked to navigate this challenge and to support one another in a way that is deeply rooted in light and hope.

We see this in our faculty members who have worked tirelessly to remain connected to their students; in our coaches who continue to champion their players from afar; in our students who have managed this new reality of online classes, clubs and activities while adjusting to being back home; and our alumni who have participated in virtual programming and events in support of our mission.

Most notably, we see this in our seniors who, when faced with great disappointment and sadness about the way their time at Stonehill came to an end, have shown tremendous grace and resiliency. While the world may be filled with uncertainty, they are equipped with maturity, fortitude and an enduring sense of class spirit—a belief in themselves and in each other. There is no doubt that they will contribute to their respective fields—as well as to their communities and to our society as a whole—in impressive and significant ways.

This online issue of the Stonehill Alumni Magazine includes stories that reflect the impact of the pandemic on the College and our responses to it as well as more regular features. (Due to the financial implications of the pandemic, we decided to forgo the printing and mailing of this issue.) You will meet alumni and students who exhibit adaptability and determination when faced with some of life’s toughest issues. You will also read about programs that are enhancing the Stonehill experience and faculty and staff members who are devoted to helping students in the classroom and in their careers. Therein lies our strength and hope as a community of faith and scholarship.

In Unnatural Quiet, Professor Peter Ubertaccio, dean of the May School of Arts & Sciences, reflects on our unnaturally quiet campus, which is highlighted in the Stillness photo essay. Speaking to the power of community, Dean Ubertaccio explores what we lose when our only connections are digital as opposed to “on the quad or in the classroom, in worship in the chapel, in the theater or on the athletic field.”

In her Rhododendron Drive essay, Emma-Cate Rapose ’20 reflects on the beauty of Stonehill sunsets as well as silver linings amid an upended final semester. Emma’s piece captures the very essence of this senior class, our newest alumni, in response to disruption and disappointment. I very much look forward to celebrating Commencement with them and their families later this summer.

In Out of Retirement, On to the Frontlines, Judy Salerno, M.D., M.S. ’73, who left retirement as a clinician to help during the pandemic, shares with us her personal account of what it is like working at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Her words remind us of the dedication, courage, compassion and care that our nation’s frontline workers show each and every day.

In A Distiller of Spirit, you will meet Brendan Hughes ’16, who is the co-founder and president of St. Johnsbury Distillery in Vermont. Deeply committed to his hometown of St. Johnsbury, he responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by using the distillery’s resources to make hand sanitizer for the residents of the city, as well as for first responders, healthcare facilities and essential businesses in the community.

Unrelated to the pandemic, but an example of great resilience in the face of adversity is the story of Brian Switzer ’13, who, both hearing and visually impaired, finds peace through running. You can also hear from student members of a new program dedicated to serving underrepresented communities on campus in a story called A Brighter Stonehill.

The voices in these stories are all authentic and from the heart. In this difficult time, they give me hope, and I trust they do the same for you.

I am confident that the day is coming when this pandemic will be part of our shared memory—something we went through together and came through together. Keep that future always at top of mind and please know we are working as diligently as possible to keep our community safe, united, and ready to continue the work at hand, together.

Sincerely in Holy Cross,

Rev. John Denning, C.S.C.