It goes without saying that St. Ambrose University has faced many serious challenges in the 138 years since the Most Rev. John McMullen founded this institution.
Among them were two world wars, a great depression and-as we often heard mentioned in the news this spring-the deadly flu epidemic of 1918.
Those and other tragically historic events certainly brought hardship and heartache to countless Ambrosians, while also challenging the hearts, minds, and vision of the University's leaders. Perhaps the difficulties experienced in those dark moments in world history were more daunting for the college than those we have encountered through the COVID-19 pandemic this spring.
Nonetheless, decisions to finish the second half of our spring semester through distance-delivery-only classes, subsequently to cancel our face-to-face commencement ceremony in May, and to make very difficult spending adjustments to mitigate the rising financial impact of this ongoing crisis were among the most difficult of my long career in higher education.
In every moment of the enduring crisis, two things were paramount in deliberation and discussion among the Cabinet and me:
• Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff;
• And ensuring the stability of St. Ambrose University for years beyond this frightening and perilous moment.
As I write this, we have succeeded in that first most vital mission. With God's blessing, that will remain the case until such time as this scourge has ended. While the economic impact of this dreaded coronavirus outbreak likely will reverberate across the world for years, I am confident St. Ambrose University will remain a vibrant and vital academic institution for generations to come.
While the economic impact of this dreaded coronavirus outbreak likely will reverberate across the world for years, I am confident St. Ambrose University will remain a vibrant and vital academic institution for generations to come.
I was heartened by the gracious response of students and families to the unfortunate necessity of completing the final half of spring semester via distance delivery methods. I was inspired by the rapid and redoubled efforts of faculty and staff to ensure that our students were given the most complete academic experience that these unforeseeable adjustments would allow.
In the coming days, and months, we will find new ways to celebrate our graduating seniors and graduate degree recipients. When this crisis ends and "social distancing" joins terms such as "Ground Zero," "blitzkrieg," and "Dust Bowl" in the lexicon of history, St. Ambrose will reopen its classrooms and residence halls and begin again the extraordinary work of this university, which is, of course, enriching lives.
Few of us have ever experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully, none of us will again. Yet, if history is a guide, equally difficult moments will arise. And St. Ambrose University and Ambrosians everywhere will rise to meet them. I know you join me in praying for God's wisdom, compassion and grace.
Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD