This is a generation-defining moment. And like every such moment that has gone before, it is not only the crisis itself but also how we respond that matters most.
The Penn community has responded heroically. Everyone has had truly difficult decisions to make. That we have done so together will contribute directly to the health and lives of members of our community and countless others. We will continue to do this guided by the best understanding and evidence for what will protect and save lives.
I write to all of you personally today to thank the entire Penn community and—as importantly—to recognize how wrenching this is for everyone in the Penn family.
To each and every one of our students—Penn undergraduate, graduate, professional, and nontraditional students—I know you are deeply concerned and uncertain about what comes next, and I share those feelings with you. You have goals and dreams left undone, plays not being performed, games and meets not taking place, research interrupted, spontaneous late-night conversations not occurring, and a thousand other losses both large and small that we all mourn. It hurts to have so much changed so quickly.
To the great Class of 2020 in particular: You have worked so well and achieved so much. And now, life-altering global events that affect all of us have taken away something that is uniquely yours: your final semester on campus, surrounded by friends and faculty, enjoying all of the accomplishments, milestones, and traditions that you have gone to such lengths to earn and enjoy. That is a special—and an especially difficult—loss.
But your amazing Penn story does not end this way. I promise.
In light of the disruption our graduating students are going through, we all want to do more, not less, to celebrate and honor you. The day of your scheduled Commencement, May 18, should not pass without recognizing that you are now Penn graduates, which we will do virtually. We also will celebrate and honor you in person with Commencement ceremonies on Penn’s campus when it is safe and feasible to do so.
It will be some time before we know the specifics, but we will do our utmost to give your achievements and time at Penn the fullest celebration possible.
To our proud Penn alumni, we also promise that we will hold an on-campus celebration of our 2020 Alumni Weekend when it becomes safe and feasible again to do so. Our Penn alumni and especially those who were planning and working so hard on celebrations for milestone reunion years want to come home, and I cannot wait to welcome all of you in style. Of course, we cannot know the dates for these events right now given how uncertain the immediate future is, but we will provide additional details as soon as it’s possible to do so.
I cannot begin to say enough in praise of our faculty and staff, who continue to keep our university functioning, and our doctors, nurses, and researchers who keep our medical system operating. You are our heroes. You have children at home, aged parents, and family members at risk, and are concerned for your own health and safety. Yet you give your all to support our University and community. I’m so very proud, and we’re all tremendously grateful.
This is a difficult moment for everybody. We’re all trying to adjust our lives and plans while doing all we can to safeguard public health and the wellbeing of those around us. With all my heart, I want to thank everyone for working together in doing what’s right even though it means giving up things we cherish.
There’s no other community in the world I’d rather stand with and work with at such a time, and I am so proud of you all. Stay strong, stay safe, stay in touch. We will meet this moment. That’s a Penn promise.