May 15 Community Update from President Hanno

Dear Wheaton Community,

Our lives have all been affected in so many ways over the last several weeks, and tomorrow (Saturday, May 16) you will see another example of how we have had to adapt. The Wheaton College Class of 2020, approximately 400 strong, will be receiving their degrees in a Virtual Commencement Ceremony, obviously a first for the college. The advantage of this format is that you can tune in for some or all of the ceremony, no matter where you are. I strongly urge you to “stop by” for this event, as it promises to be a unique and fun way to honor these amazing graduates. We still hope to host an in-person commencement for the class here on campus sometime this summer, if possible. A decision on that will be made by June 1, so watch for more information in future communications.

This weekend would also normally see the campus alive with our reunion classes here to reconnect with each other and with Wheaton. Again, we’ve been able to adapt and we actually expect even more alumni than normal to be able to participate remotely. There is an impressive array of Virtual Reunion activities that will be happening throughout the weekend.

Over the past several days, the Board of Trustees of Wheaton College has been holding its annual meeting online. Discussions focused on the impact of this global pandemic on the institution and planning for our short-term and long-term future. The board presented a formal resolution of thanks to all faculty and staff for the amazing pivot to remote teaching and operations. As the long-term stewards of the college, the trustees acknowledge the incredible work that went in to finishing this semester and fully appreciate the monumental support that faculty and staff have shown for our students and for each other over the past two months. It truly has been extraordinary to see the way everyone at Wheaton has pitched in during these challenging times.

We now turn our attention to preparing for a gradual shift from remote back to campus-based operations. Massachusetts has been very proactive in providing guidance about reopening and we expect even more clarity around expectations and standards in the coming days and weeks. We will have more news early next week about the current stay-at-home advisory but we expect to continue remote operations at least through May 31. Even then, we expect a slow, gradual and phased approach to bringing staff back to campus, continuing throughout the summer, as we build the protocols needed to ensure the health and safety of our community.

On Monday, the Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board is expected to release guidance for institutions of higher education as we all prepare to eventually bring students back to campus. I have been involved in the discussions leading up to this report and it will prove very useful to us as we evaluate what needs to be done in the coming weeks to welcome students back. We continue to work towards an intended reopening for in-person instruction and operations for September 1. As always, our main consideration is protecting the health and safety of every member of the community. We have many people on campus building our plan and evaluating all of the available guidance. As promised, we will provide more details by July 1 on the steps we will take to bring students back and the timing of such a return. I’ll continue to update you throughout as developments occur and plans take shape.

Even though we can’t be together on campus this weekend for reunions and commencement, we still have much to celebrate. In particular, the Class of 2020 is deserving of every bit of support and celebration we can send their way! Obstacles and barriers never seen before did not stop them from completing their studies. Congratulations, Class of 2020! You are amazing!!

Wishing a safe and happy weekend to all of you,

Dennis Hanno
Wheaton College