April 3 Community Update from President Hanno

Dear Wheaton Community,

It’s a rainy, gray Friday on the Wheaton campus, making me long even more for the energy and liveliness missing here with almost everyone studying and working remotely. It also reinforces to me the importance of keeping our community connected, even though we are away from this beautiful physical campus. Thus, much of our work this week has been focused on trying to keep us connected, both academically and socially. Maintaining this strong sense of community is more important now than ever.

I want to remind you that insideWheaton and the COVID resource page should continue to be your go-to sources for information during our remote operations. I know there is so much information coming at you from various offices on campus that it can be overwhelming and confusing. We continue to work with every department to publish and curate information for you in these locations. If you missed an email or can’t remember where you saw some information, check these websites out. I know you will find them very helpful.

In the spirit of maintaining our strong sense of community, virtual events continue to be added to the college’s events calendar and Engage so keep visiting these pages often to find out ways to stay connected to each other. Attendance has been great at some of these and the conversations have been very productive. Let me call your attention to one upcoming community-wide event in particular. We had been scheduled to have noted journalist and author Elaine Weiss (author of The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote) here on campus this month in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment. Elaine has agreed to still join our community for a live virtual discussion on Thursday, April 16 at 7 PM. We hope that students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents can all come together to participate. You can find out more about the event and register online.

Speaking of community gatherings, we have continued to discuss the outlook for May’s scheduled Commencement and Reunion Weekend. Several senior class leaders joined Dean Zack Irish, other campus leaders and me for a discussion earlier this week about Commencement in particular. As you likely have expected by now, after considering the guidance from government and public health officials, we concluded that it will not be possible to have a face-to-face Commencement and Reunion on May 16. Since this is the day that degrees are officially conferred, we will have some form of a virtual ceremony on that day. As I have indicated before, we fully intend to have an actual in-person Commencement here on campus at a later time this year.

The exact timing and structure of Commencement and related activities is being identified in consultation with the senior class, and our alumni office and volunteers will work together on more details for an in-person celebration for Reunion. I understand how disappointing it is for us all to not be able to come together in person at this time to participate in these valued community traditions, but I am thankful for your ongoing flexibility and commitment to be nimble. Commencement is such a major occasion in the life of any institution, and more importantly in the lives of the graduates and their families, that this is a very difficult decision. However, it also underscores to me the importance of gathering as a community as soon as we can to mark this huge occasion, and we will.

Currently, there are nine positive cases of COVID-19 in Norton but still no reported positive cases at Wheaton. The toll continues to rise across the world and in Massachusetts and it is likely that many of you and your family and friends have been affected. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you, especially knowing that we have not yet reached the peak. We are all in this together and I know that everyone of us is making significant sacrifices to help control this global pandemic.

I know that these ongoing challenges and the resulting changes in our lives take a toll on each one of us. I encourage every member of our community to continue to safeguard their physical and mental well-being, to engage with the resources and support being provided, and to take a break from your ongoing work this weekend when possible.

I wish safety and good health to you and your loved ones.

Dennis Hanno
Wheaton College