Even in the midst of this global pandemic that has disrupted our lives, I hope we will all take some time over the Memorial Day weekend to remember and honor with our thoughts and prayers the thousands of men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military over the years, offering the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
Plans are progressing for in-person commencement ceremonies for our Spring, 2020, graduates on August 8. Those programs are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and will feature all of the splendor and pageantry that make Northwestern graduation programs so special and unique. Information on how social distancing protocol might affect attendance at the commencement programs will be forthcoming.
Response to the virtual commencement ceremony earlier this month was overwhelmingly positive. It is gratifying that our graduates, their friends and families, alumni and others who viewed program were impressed with the creativity, quality, and sentiment of the event. Our graduates’ diplomas were mailed several days ago, and there is no doubt that they will take unusual pride in those documents that reflect their unprecedented achievements.
Northwestern alumni have been bringing positive attention and prestige to their alma mater for more than 13 decades, and we are extremely proud of one of our graduates who has been named to the highest position in elementary and secondary education in Louisiana. Dr. Cade Brumley, a 2002 graduate, was selected this week as state superintendent of education. He is highly qualified for the position and will provide dynamic leadership for schools throughout our state.
The university began the first phase of our return to campus this week, and it has been gratifying to see so many Northwestern personnel back in their offices. Our highest priority, as it has been throughout this crisis, has been the safety and wellbeing of faculty, staff, and students. There have been extensive deep cleaning and sanitation measures on campus in recent weeks, installation of protective shields and barriers in some offices, compliance with protocol for social distancing and use of protective masks and other precautions to ensure campus safety. We look forward to the next phase of return to work and the complete repopulation of the campus in the weeks ahead.
Much of our recent work has been directed toward the return to campus of students, faculty, and staff for the fall semester with the primary focus on the health and safety of our students and personnel and the university’s educational mission. Northwestern is joining the other eight schools in the University of Louisiana System in planning for the reopening of our campuses in the fall. As system president Dr. Jim Henderson said, the universities will continue to prioritize safety and learning. He said, “The university experience is more than just attending class and we are optimistic, with the right safeguards in place and following the guidance of health experts, that we will be able to safely return to campus in August.”
These have been difficult and demanding times for all of us, so it was especially gratifying to receive a Resolution of Commendation from the Faculty Senate for our efforts in addressing the overpowering, devastating impact of the pandemic on our university and community. That gesture is deeply appreciated, and we will continue to work diligently in unison with faculty, staff, students, alumni, our governing board and state and community leaders to assure the continued vitality and effectiveness of the university and the safety and wellbeing of our students and personnel.
I hope all of you are able to step back for a moment from this crisis and enjoy at least a brief time of calm and tranquility over the Memorial Day weekend.