Dear Wheaton Community,
With mid-July here and the summer flying by, I am excitedly looking forward to welcoming faculty, staff and returning students back to campus in a few short weeks! Even more, I can’t wait to greet and meet the Class of 2025 and our transfer and other students who will be joining us here on campus for the first time. It will be great to see the campus come back to life over the next several weeks.
Our Return to Campus logistics for the fall continue to take shape as we approach move-in and fall orientation in late August. We continue to closely monitor the situation with variants and vaccinations and are committed, once again, to creating a safe place for our community to study, live and work. We are grateful to the many students who have already submitted their required proof of vaccination or waiver exemptions to Health Services and we encourage all others to do so by August 1. Creating a safe environment on campus and returning to the in-person experience that is a hallmark of a Wheaton education is made possible only by achieving a high vaccination rate. Our Return to Campus Task Force and departments across campus continue to refine protocols and procedures based upon evolving state and federal guidance, thus students and families should continue to expect updates from now right up until the semester begins.
It has also been a pleasure to welcome two leaders into key campus roles over the past few weeks. As previously announced, Dr. Darnell Parker started at Wheaton on July 1 as our new vice president of student affairs and dean of students. I know that he has already made some strong connections in the community and looks forward to making even more when students arrive back on campus. I am certain that Dr. Parker will have a very positive and long-lasting impact on Wheaton. Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Zack Irish, who served us extraordinarily well as our Interim VP of Student Affairs throughout the last 20 months, provides him with a strong partner to help shape student life on campus.
Professor Touba Ghadessi has stepped into the important role of Interim Provost, also effective July 1. Interim Provost Ghadessi brings to this position a strong record of service and extraordinary leadership on and off-campus throughout her career. Interim Provost Ghadessi is a Professor of the History of Art at Wheaton and served most recently as Associate Provost for Academic Administration and Faculty Affairs since 2018. In addition to the past three years in the Provost’s Office, Interim Provost Ghadessi has served as department chair of Art History, as co-founder and co-director of the Wheaton Institute for the Interdisciplinary Humanities, and as a member of multiple strategic planning, search, and faculty committees. Among her many leadership roles off-campus, Interim Provost Ghadessi has served on the board of directors and chair of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, on the board of the Providence Athenaeum, and on the working group for the founding of the New England Humanities Consortium and the Executive Committee for its Faculty of Color Working Group. Please join me in congratulating and thanking Interim Provost Ghadessi for taking on this important role.
I have long realized that Wheaton is a community full of leaders, and once again our alumni, parents, friends, and corporate partners have led the way and shown true leadership with their philanthropic support of the college. In a year when virtually every aspect of our daily lives was disrupted, our community gave back to support Wheaton at a near-record level during the fiscal year just ended on June 30. The $21.6 million in new gifts and pledges for the year is the third highest annual total ever raised for the college – an amazing accomplishment! Our Wheaton Fund gifts for annual support totaled $4.73 million from more than 4,000 donors. Participation levels remained strong, and we continued to see remarkable growth in giving from our parents, who contributed over $500,000 this year.
I cannot overstate the importance of our Wheaton Fund gifts each and every year. For context, the impact of the many gifts that went into that total of almost $5 million is equal to the value of an additional endowment of $100 million. Wheaton Fund gifts support many aspects of our operations, including financial aid, internships, faculty development, campus renewal projects, the library, arts and STEM programming, and so much more. Thank you all for your generous support of Wheaton College, year after year, that makes so much possible for the college.
I look forward to seeing many alumni, family and friends back on campus this fall, as we hope to return to some normalcy around our celebrations and opportunities to gather as a community. Mark your calendar now for Family and Friends Weekend, which will take place September 24-25. Fall Fest Weekend, when we welcome alumni back to campus, will take place on October 15-16. We will have special events at Fall Fest for current and past members of our Board of Trustees as well as our Alumni Board of Directors. Among the many things to celebrate when we come back together for Fall Fest, we plan to dedicate our new academic discovery center arising from the significant renovations currently underway in the old science center. We have much to celebrate and I hope you are able to join us on campus during one of these celebratory fall weekends.
Even as we make significant progress, I realize that there are still many struggling with the current reality of the pandemic and the fallout of all that has transpired over the last year and a half. We still have a lot of work ahead of us. We shouldn’t simply be looking to get back to the way things were before, but we should be looking to do even better, especially given what we have learned over the last several months. We need to strengthen our commitment to ensuring the health and wellness for our community, to creating a more equitable and inclusive community, and to addressing social injustice on campus and beyond. Wheaton College has never shied away from tackling these big challenges, and I am confident that working together we will continue to make progress and grow even stronger in the months and years ahead.
There is definitely a new day ahead, and with that sentiment in mind I’m pleased to share with you this video clip, aptly named “New Day,” from the spring concert of the Wheaton Chamber Singers. I hope it provides you hope and excitement for even better days to come.
Wishing you continued safety and health,